Photo: MTI / Lajos Soós

Red alert travel restrictions as coronavirus flares up

Off-colour world, again

The government has introduced international travel restrictions aimed at preventing a new wave of coronavirus. Additional restrictive rules within the country were not announced, but border controls will be tightened and travellers from most affected “red” countries will be barred.

Gergely Gulyás, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, said on July 12 that Hungary must prevent the virus entering from abroad. “Hungary is today among the safest countries in Europe,” he said. But given new outbreaks around the world the government was putting the health and safety of Hungarians foremost and doing everything possible to prevent the virus’s return.

The operative board in charge of containing the pandemic has advised the government to classify countries “red”, “yellow” and “green”, based on their level of infection, Gulyás said, adding that it is continually monitoring data from abroad. There were “worrying signs” from neighbouring countries. “The better we are able to protect our borders and restrict entry to the country, the better we can uphold the conditions for a safe and free life in Hungary,” he said.

Special rules will apply to Hungarian citizens and their relatives. Hungarian citizens can freely enter from a country classified “green”. Entry from “yellow” or “red” countries will entail undergoing a health check at the border and 14 days in quarantine unless two consecutive negative coronavirus tests taken 48 hours apart within the previous five days can be proven.

Hungarian citizens coming from a “yellow” country depart quarantine after a single coronavirus test, while those from “red” countries will need two negative tests to do so. The same rule applies to non-Hungarian citizens from “yellow” countries but those from “red” ones will be forbidden entry altogether.

Transit and freight traffic are exempt but will have to follow an officially designated corridor. At the same time health examinations may be carried out if needed.

Caution on holidays

Most Hungarians are cautious when it comes to planning their holidays after the lifting of coronavirus-related border restrictions, a survey by Netrisk.hu shows. Fifty percent of respondents in the survey of 6000 people said they have postponed their next holiday to the late summer or autumn and 18 percent plan to defer their trip to next year. Fifty-six percent said they would travel within Hungary. More than half of respondents planning a holiday abroad have chosen Croatia or Austria, and none plan to travel outside Europe, Netrisk said.

The government will keep the list of countries and their classification under review, and it is possible the number of countries in the yellow or red category may be expanded. In the case of a sudden deterioration of the situation in any given country immediate action will be taken, Gulyás said. The government was doing its best to make sure that freedom of movement is maintained as regards European Union member states.

Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Sweden are currently “yellow” EU countries (as of July 13), while from outside the EU the United Kingdom, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Japan, China and the United States are the same.  Among European countries, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Kosovo, North Macedonia, as well as Moldova and Montenegro are “red”.

Asia, Africa and South America are also “red”. In Croatia, still “green”, the number of infected people is low but increasing, Gulyás noted, adding that the new rules will also apply to people returning home from Greece via Serbia by road.

He said the government will bear the costs of testing until August 1. After this date, unless people are prepared to enter into official home quarantine for 14 days when they return home from a country marked yellow or red, they will have to pay for the test. Gulyás said reports that Hungary had not provided data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control were based on a misunderstanding and were mistaken.

Electricity demand falls by 10 pc in May

Demand for electricity in Hungary declined by around 10 percent in May compared with a year earlier, the daily Magyar Nemzet has reported, citing Hungarian energy regulatory authority data. The paper attributed the decline to measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic as well as to the statistical fact that there were two fewer working days in May than in May 2019. Load fell 560 megawatts on average in May. The Paks nuclear plant provided 55 percent of domestic electricity, while lignite-fired and gas turbines provided 10 percent each. Solar power accounted for 7.8 percent on average, though this rose to 18-25 percent during the peak period when the weather was fair. The price of residential electricity, which is government regulated, has remained stable. Electricity in Budapest, costing 10.76 eurocents per kilowatt hour, is still among the cheapest in the capital cities of the European Union.

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