Coronavirus Roundup: State of Emergency Returns

Analysis

Tighter restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus came into force in Hungary at one second past midnight in the early hours of November 11.

The restrictions announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a video posted on his Facebook page on November 9 were ratified by Parliament on November 10, in addition to a 90-day extension of the current state of emergency, which had been announced the week before; the details were published in the official Magyar Közlöny (Hungary Gazette) 20 minutes before midnight on November 10.

The restrictions include a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., although people who can certify they are working or commuting are exempt. Exceptions will also be made for health emergencies, as well as for dog-walkers, who must remain within 500 meters of their residence.  All shops must close by 7 p.m., except for pharmacies and petrol stations. Dining in at restaurants is prohibited, but take-out and home delivery is allowed. Hotels are closed to tourists but open to business travelers.

All gatherings in public places are banned, although private and family gatherings with up to 10 people may take place. Additionally, masks must now be worn in the public areas of settlements with more than 10,000 inhabitants.

In an interview with Kossuth Rádió last week, Orbán said Hungary could start administering COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable Hungarians by January, and wide-scale immunization could begin by April of next year, a statement he reiterated in an interview on public television on the evening of November 10.

In the latter interview, Orbán said that vaccines could arrive as early as late December, “certainly” from the European Union, and “perhaps” from elsewhere, adding that Hungary is keeping the possibility of acquiring vaccines from China, Russia and Israel “on the table”, according to state news agency MTI.

Vaccine Purchases

In a post on his Facebook page on November 9, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said Hungary is negotiating with foreign countries on the possibility of purchasing a vaccine against the coronavirus, including Russia and China.

In a later Facebook post, Szijjártó said Russia would start small-scale deliveries of a COVID-19 vaccine to Hungary in December and that large-scale deliveries of the Russian vaccine could start in the second or third week of January, after speaking with Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko over the phone.

According to another Facebook post from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade State Secretary Tamás Menczer, Hungary could get samples of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Chinese producer for testing. Getting the samples would be “a leap forward” as it would allow a potential coronavirus vaccine to be examined by Hungarian experts, Menczer said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade also noted that Hungary had received one million favipiravir tablets in a new shipment from China, which arrived late on Sunday, he said.

Favipiravir can be used for patients already showing the symptoms of the infection and can help prevent the worsening of the disease. Talks are underway with several manufacturers on further purchases, with another shipment of one million tablets due to arrive from Japan at the weekend, Szijjártó added.

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