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Hungary to go into lockdown to contain pandemic (Updated)

Hungaryʼs government will introduce further restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a video posted on his Facebook page, according to state news wire MTI.

Orbán said a curfew will be imposed between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Exceptions will be made for people who are commuting, and for extraordinary situations.

All public gatherings will be banned, and participation at family and private gatherings will be limited to 10 people. Weddings must take place without post-ceremony receptions, and participants at ceremonies will be limited to the officiant, the bride and groom, the witnesses, and immediate family members. The number of participants at funerals will be limited to 50.

Dining-in at restaurants will be banned, but home delivery will be allowed. Workplace canteens will remain open.

Shops and service providers, such as hairdressers, will be required to close at 7 p.m.

Hotels will not be allowed to receive tourists, only business travelers.

There will be a general ban on events.

Professional sports will be held without spectators. Individual recreational sport will be allowed outdoors, but amateur team sports banned.

Students in the ninth grade and above will return to digital classrooms, as happened in the spring. But creches, kindergartens and primary schools up to the 8th grade will remain open, with teachers and staff tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

Colleges and universities will also make the changeover to digital learning, while student dormitories will close.

Recreational facilities and institutions such as gyms, swimming pools, theatres, museums, and zoos will be closed.

Hospital staff will be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, Orbán said, while acknowledging that rapid PCR tests do produce false negatives 40-50% of the time.

The PM said that the state will pay 80% refunds on bookings made up to November 8 for 30 days after the measures are introduced as long as closed facilities keep staff on payroll and those employees get their paycheques.

He added that the state would cover half of payroll costs at catering establishments and recreational facilities as long as headcount remains unchanged for 30 days after the measures are introduced. These staff will also be exempt from payroll tax, he added.

Orbán said the measures will be in force for a period of 30 days, but could be extended, if necessary. He added that the measures are similar to those in Austria whose pandemic response Hungary has followed closely because of the similarities between the two countries.

He noted that the introduction of the measures are contingent on a vote by Parliament on Tuesday that would extend a state of emergency earlier declared by the government for another 90 days.

Hungarian law allows the government to declare a state of emergency, or "state of danger" as it is officially called, for 15 days. Any extension to that requires a vote by lawmakers.

The number of daily coronavirus infections in Hungary reached a record 5,318 over the weekend. The number of people in hospital in Hungary with coronavirus now stands at more than 6,000.