Hungary Eases Coronavirus Lockdown

Members of the Hungarian national swimming team, world champion Boglarka Kapas (R) arrives with her teammate Adam Telegdy (L) at Duna Arena, the base of the national team in Budapest, Hungary after their negative coronavirus COVID-19 test results on April 28, 2020. GERGELY BESENYEI / AFP.

Hungary announced Thursday that open-air restaurants and beaches outside the capital would be allowed to reopen next week as it eases its coronavirus restrictions.

But wearing a mask on public transport and in shops will be mandatory.

Neighbouring Slovenia also said outdoor spaces of restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen from Monday, as long as they ensured safe distances between guests, while some school classes would resume from mid-May.

The lockdown will remain in place in Budapest, which has suffered about 70 percent of Hungary’s more than 2,700 COVID-19 declared infections, said Gergely Gulyas, a minister in Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s cabinet.

Nationwide, elderly people are advised to keep staying at home, but outside Budapest, stores, open-air museums and outdoor spaces of restaurants and hotels, and beaches and baths can all reopen from Monday.

It will be mandatory to wear a mask on public transport and in shops and keep a distance of 1.5 metres (six feet) from other people.

“We can try to restart life in Hungary, but we have to act gradually and on a strict schedule,” Orban said in a video message on Facebook late Wednesday.

Testing will be stepped up, while schools will remain closed throughout May, and events of more than 500 people are banned until at least August 15, Gulyas said.

In Slovenia, kindergartens and school classes for younger, as well as final-year students will resume from May 18, while others may not be able to go back until the next school year starts in September.

But an inter-municipality travel ban has been lifted with immediate effect, according to government speaker Jelko Kacin.

Training for professional sports in both Hungary and Slovenia can restart from Monday.

Libraries and museums are also expected to largely reopen on Monday in Slovenia, together with hairdressers and stores of up to 400 square metres.

The small Alpine country of two million people has reported more than 1,400 novel coronavirus cases and 91 deaths.

Hungary, which has a population of nearly 10 million people, has reported 312 deaths.

Orban drew criticism at home and abroad last month when his government passed a law granting him powers to rule by decree without a fixed time limit to fight the pandemic.

Budapest has been run by a liberal mayor who is not from Orban’s nationalist party since last year.


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