Due to the development of the coronavirus situation, the government has decided to return to the border protection rules applied during the first wave of the epidemic, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office announced at a press conference held on Friday in Budapest.

As a result, according to the rule of thumb, from 1 September, foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter the territory of Hungary, except in justified circumstances, subject to the observance of the relevant safety regulations. At the same time, Hungarians returning from abroad will be required to retire to quarantine for 14 days, or until they are able to present two negative tests with forty-eight hours between the two tests, he said, indicating that the majority of infections originate from abroad.

The virus situation poses a threat to the economy, jobs and the start of the school year alike, Mr Gulyás stressed, highlighting that we must all at once guarantee the safety of the elderly who are most at risk, children who are about to start school and the smooth operation of the economy, he stressed.

The Minister said in Europe the second wave of the epidemic has started, and infection rates resemble the end of March and April in many respects. In Hungary, too, the number of infections has risen; however, the country is still doing better than most, he added.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that exceptions are – similar to the previous phase of infections – military convoys and business travel between related undertakings. Border crossing will be allowed during limited hours, and travel via humanitarian corridors will be guaranteed also in the future, in accordance with the rules in effect earlier. Specific, stringent rules will apply to sporting events, while diplomatic and official travel will also be allowed. In cases deserving special consideration, the national police chief will have the authority to grant exemption, the Minister explained.

Further details and preparations for the new arrangements will be discussed at the meeting of the border protection task force to be held at 7.00 a.m. on Saturday which will be attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in addition to the Defence Minister and the Interior Minister.

He said they concluded that as the introduction of the virus into the country poses the greatest threat at this time, if the borders are sealed and the relevant regulations are observed in Hungary, including the wearing of face masks, social distancing and thorough hand-washing, we will be able to keep the virus under control. This is in all our best interests, with special regard to the fact that school is starting on 1 September, and it is to be hoped that the Hungarian economy, too, will be able to continue to function in normal circumstances.

The government also decided to send 50 ventilators to Transcarpathia; as a result, all health care institutions in Transcarpathia will have access to such equipment, he stated.

Regarding himself, Mr Gulyás said after two negative tests – whose cost he himself covered – based on the Chief Medical Officer’s decision, he attended the Friday cabinet meeting. In answer to the question as to whether he was in any way isolated at the cabinet meeting, he said there is no such thing as ‘a dunce’s seat’; before the meeting, the Prime Minister asked him if he was well. Mr Orbán does not give his ministers life coaching advice, he said in answer to the question as to whether the Prime Minister took him to task over attending such a high-attendance event.

He also said they do not keep a record of how many government-party Members of Parliament, ministers or state secretaries have been quarantined. If a minister or state secretary is unable to work, it is only right for them to let members of the public know; this is why he himself did so, he said.

In answer to a question about the start of the school year, the Minister said the Ministry of Human Capacities released a set of recommendations; they do not ban, but likewise do not recommend the organisation of large school year opening ceremonies.

They are working hard to ensure that schools should not be shut down; the cabinet also decided that closures will be possible on the basis of the decisions of the relevant authorities, adopted separately with respect to each institution. He pointed out that while digital education had passed the test unexpectedly well, it is in everyone’s best interests that schools should operate in the normal mode.

Regarding school trips postponed to the autumn, he said school trips can be organised within Hungary, in each case on the basis of thorough deliberation.

They continue to encourage domestic tourism; they have adopted such stringent measures amounting to a full border closure in order for life to proceed within the normal boundaries within the boundaries of the country, he pointed out.

As to whether the re-introduction of a shopping time slot reserved for those over 65 is on the agenda, he said for the time being it is not; the rules now adopted will remain in effect for a month. The data of the national consultation will be evaluated by mid-September, and this will allow the government to adopt new decisions, the Minister indicated.

In answer to another question, he confirmed that from 1 August the government will not pay for the cost of coronavirus tests, and this rule will continue to remain in effect. If anyone travels abroad out of their own free will, taxpayers should not be required to pay for their tests.

If a person is quarantined due to contact tracing and they are able to present two negative tests with two days between the tests, they can then be released from quarantine. In this case, the state will continue to cover the test costs, he indicated.

It is possible to leave the country; however, very stringent rules will apply to returning home, he laid down. As regards colour codes, he pointed out that there are two colour codes: Hungary green and all other countries red.

Regarding the hosting of the UEFA Super Cup, he said there is no approved timetable yet; there is no way of knowing what the epidemic situation will be like in four weeks’ time, how many spectators will be allowed to view the match and under what circumstances. UEFA will provide 3,000 tickets to the supporters of the two foreign teams, each. If they are able to organise the match according to the current plans, persons with two negative tests will be allowed to land at the airport. From the airport, they will be taken directly to the stadium, and from there back to the airport. The body temperature  of those arriving will also be checked. They are also consulting with UEFA, he explained.

Regarding the fact that, at the same time, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller does not recommend the organisation of the annual festive book week, Mr Gulyás said it is best to exercise maximum caution.

The Minister confirmed in answer to a further question that this year’s meeting in Kötcse at the beginning of September will be cancelled.

Regarding the collection of signatures launched in response to statements made by DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány with respect to theatrical director Attila Vidnyánszky and the entire right-wing intelligentsia of Hungary, he said he himself signed the petition, and there are already as many as 22,000 signatures. This is quite an achievement, given that this is a protest against a politician’s statements. In his view, the statements Ferenc Gyurcsány addressed to members of Hungary’s art world recall the darkest days of dictatorship.

In answer to the question about when teachers teaching disadvantaged students will receive the one-time bonus of HUF 500,000, he said it is to be hoped within the shortest possible time. In general, transfers are made within a month when such decisions are adopted, he indicated.

In response to another question, Government Spokesperson Alexandra Szentkirályi said she was not present at the Saturday event attended by Fidesz Director for Communications István Hollik, and so far she has not been involved in any contact tracing.

Mr Gulyás also said they are currently negotiating with banks about the extension of the credit debt repayment moratorium. At this time, there is no decision; however, the issue is on the agenda.

Regarding education, he observed that the competent ministry identified recommendations, and there can be no financial obstacle to the implementation of precautionary measures.

In answer to a question, he said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán alone can render an account of his own holiday, pointing out that they regard holidays as private affairs. At the same time, the Prime Minister observed the appeal of ‘More Lake Balaton, less Adriatic,” he said, stating repeatedly that the family holidays of members of the government are private affairs.

According to the Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, too, complied with the relevant regulations, and will continue to do so in the future as well. In a crisis situation, state administration must be ready to help, he said in answer to a question about the possibility of working from home at the foreign affairs department.

He also confirmed that coronavirus tests are being carried out on the basis of WHO rules. He added that they have carried out a great many tests, the practice followed so far is working well, and they will follow the same protocol also in the future. In contrast to the situation in the spring, Hungarian health care is now fully prepared to handle the challenges posed by the epidemic, and the necessary conditions are in place, he pointed out, adding that it is important to strictly monitor the wearing of face masks.

He also said the weekend private event where he met Mr Hollik was attended by two members of the government, Justice Minister Judit Varga and himself.

In answer to a question, he confirmed that from 1 September, only tests performed in Hungary will be accepted as only these can be regarded as safe.

Mr Gulyás answered the question as to whether due to the epidemic situation the tightening of rules relating to health care is on the agenda in the negative.  Eight thousand hospital beds are available, if necessary as early as from tomorrow morning, he observed.

He pointed out in answer to a question concerning foreign students studying in Hungary that foreign nationals will be required to present negative tests for the establishment of any student relationship in higher education.

In answer to questions relating to the procurement of ventilators and the differences in the prices of machines, the Minister highlighted that during the pandemic the ventilator market was “turbulent,” and everyone was happy to lay their hands on ventilators. At the time, prices did not reflect normal market conditions. Hungary ordered ventilators everywhere they could; had they not proceeded so, they would not have acted with due care. At the same time, the marketability of the machines has not diminished, and so any machines that are not required can be sold, he said. According to his information, the Foreign Ministry is already engaged in such negotiations.

Regarding Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó’s holiday in the Adriatic, the Minister also pointed out that the Hungarian rules relating to conflicts of interest are among the more stringent ones in Europe.

In the context of the opposition candidate nominated for the parliamentary by-election to be held in the Tiszaújváros constituency, the Minister said the government believes that the candidate made unacceptable anti-Semitic statements. However, the Left and the Mayor of Budapest do not share this view.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)