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Masks, Unemployment, Falling Sales and Testing all on the Rise

It has been mandatory to wear a mask or scarf covering mouth and nose in all commercial units, shops, grocery stores, markets, as well as when using taxis, and public transportation since Monday April 27, Mayor Gergely Karácsony announced in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Despite not being formally included in the mayor’s edict (being owned by the state, rather than the city), Magyar Posta has also insisted on customers wearing masks in its premises.

Fortunately for Budapest residents, Hungary has been receiving shipments of millions masks (and hundreds of thousands of testing kits and other pieces of personal protective equipment) from China, including five planes carrying 4.1 million masks and 100,000 tests on May 1, and a 40-car container train on April 27. Aldi has stated it has two million masks in stock, with 500,000 already available to customers in packs of 10 available for HUF 3,999.

As the official figures of the coronavirus’ initial impact on employment become available, it was revealed that in March 2020, 56,000 people lost their jobs, 54,000 of whom became economically inactive and 2,000 unemployed, according to the Central Statistical Office (KSH).

László Parragh, president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), told independent liberal newspaper Népszava that he estimates the number of unemployed will increase by 4,000-5,000 people per day.

Different indexes from GKI Economic Research Zrt. mildly conflict, with its business climate index falling by an unprecedented 33.1 points in April, but its purchasing managers’ index improving to 33.6 from 28.5 in March.

Half of companies saw at least a 30% drop in sales in March as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, and expect a further significant decline, according to a survey conducted by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), although many industries saw a more drastic decline. Some 50-90% of the revenues of language schools, for example, may be lost due to the epidemic, according to Villággazdaság.

The Hungarian real estate market fell by 58% in April compared to a year earlier, Duna House told state news agency MTI based on its own data. Nationwide, taxi traffic fell by 90%, according to the National Taxi Association, while Budapest Airport announced it had lost roughly 99% of its usual passengers in April.

Don’t Panic!

In spite of the National Pandemic Alarm survey, which took place in five Central European countries, indicating that Hungary rates at 69.8% on the “Panic Index” (how worried people are about the measures taken to prevent the virus from spreading), one-third of Hungarians expect the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis to end in four-to-six months, but 5% say it will last more than 12 months, according to a representative survey by Nielsen in the European market between March 26 and April 8.

Only 16% of Hungarians are confident that the economy will recover soon after the virus recedes, as revealed by an online survey conducted by K&H on the income situation of households among the Hungarian population aged 18-65.

However, according to a global, representative survey of the emotions, fears and financial prospects of the population of 22 countries conducted by General Insurance, 51% of Hungarians are more optimistic or strongly optimistic about the outcome of epidemic.

Major testing for coronavirus at various laboratory locations has begun among the population, National Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller told the daily Operational Council press conference on May 1.

Aside from tests being offered by private firms, including by drive-through, Semmelweis University is now providing coronavirus screening as part of the H-UNCOVER national representative study, which aims to obtain an accurate picture of the epidemiological situation in Hungary.

A high turnout for the study is extremely important to get accurate results in order to target and mitigate the spread of the disease, which will be necessary, as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has warned that experts expect a second wave in October-November.