Are you sure?

Coronavirus roundup: Mask Rules Tightened, Moratorium Extended

As our previous issue was going to print, Hungary’s government decided to extend rules on wearing masks, set a limit on the price of COVID-19 tests and made it compulsory to take the body temperature of all students and teachers when entering schools from October 1, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on his official Facebook page.

These measures were codified later that week in a decree published in official Magyar Közlöny (Hungarian Gazette). The decree requires event venues and catering establishments to close by 11 p.m. from September 21, and extends rules on mandatory mask-wearing for people over the age of six to theaters, cinemas, museums and shopping malls, in addition to shops, where they have been required since the spring. It also specifies that masks must be worn “in a manner ensuring the nose and mouth are continuously covered.”

The Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKIK) recommended measures the capital can take to support the struggling tourism and catering industry in a letter sent to Mayor Gergely Karácsony, according to state news agency MTI.

Acknowledging the dependency of the city’s tourism and catering businesses on foreign visitors, BKIK urged support for travel packages that target Visegrád Group citizens from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia; these are exempt, with a negative COVID-19 test, from the general ban on entry into Hungary by foreigners.

For most hotels in Budapest, the loss of revenue this year may exceed 70% from last year, while hotels outside of the capital are expected to see their revenue fall by 20-40% due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a representative survey commissioned by the Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association.

Budapest Airport (BUD), meanwhile, said passenger traffic had fallen by more than 90% in the first two weeks of September, after the government mandated restrictions on entry by foreign nationals to contain the spread of COVID-19 cases originating abroad.  

PAX Numbers Plumet

The operator said passenger numbers are expected to fall by more than 90% for the full month and to drop 80-90% in October based on indications from several airlines of reduced operations because of the drop in demand. BUD said another reduction in headcount, following one in May, is “inevitable” because of the impact of pandemic travel restrictions on passenger numbers and revenue. BUD expects the latest job cuts to affect 236 employees.  

After the Czech parent company informed its Hungarian partner of another border tightening, this time between Austria and the Czech Republic, RegioJet will not launch its Budapest-Vienna-Prague routes in Hungary in October after having suspended operations in September, András Szigeti the CEO of Continental Railway Solution Kft. (CRS) told Világgazdaság (Global Economy).

Replying to a question on whether the border restrictions would remain following October 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó replied that restrictive measures on entries “will remain at our borders, given that we want to cut off the supply of the virus.”

After a meeting of the Economic Protection Operational Council, the Prime Minister said that the credit moratorium will be extended for a further six months from January 1 for families raising children, pensioners, the unemployed and the public.

Supervisory spokesperson of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) István Binder said on the M1 news channel that since the introduction of the moratorium, HUF 2 trillion had remained with the population, affecting approximately 160,000-240,000 families, while State Secretary Csaba Dömötör said in a video message posted on his Facebook page that the six month extension would leave families and businesses with an additional HUF 400-450 billion.

Hungary’s government could consider a second, targeted extension of a moratorium on loan repayments, depending on circumstances in the spring, Márton Nagy, an advisor to the prime minister (and former deputy governor of the MNB), said in an issue of daily Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation).