Infections Rise Three-fold
With the number of active coronavirus infections increasing more than threefold from the when our last issue was published on September 4, rising from 2,817 persons to 9,653, at the time this issue went to print, it seems safe to say the second wave has hit Hungary.
The skyrocketing figures may be connected to the fact that in the past month and a half, the number of reports of violations of epidemiological regulations has quadrupled, according to data provided by the National Police Headquarters. This shows that people are becoming less compliant with the measures taken against the spread of the infection, and the presence of police officers may be necessary to enforce them, says the President of the Independent Trade Union of Commercial Workers (KDFSZ) Csaba Bubenkó.
In light of this, the government has imposed stricter regulations regarding mask-wearing in public places. On September 12, the government decided on sanctions for failing to comply with rules on mask-wearing in shops, instituting fines for violators and the shops themselves for a first offense, a warning for the shop in the case of a second offense, and ultimately a closure of the shop for a third offense.
Last week, the Municipality of Budapest ordered that passengers not wearing a mask on routes operated by Budapest Transport Center (BKK) be fined HUF 8,000 by BKK inspectors, in addition to being excluded from the trip. This was extended to include social institutions, such as elderly homes and homeless shelters, and cultural institutions, such as museums, libraries, archives, and cinemas.
This week, the measure was extended further to concerts and circus performances, as well as in the enclosed spaces of similar institutions and condominium assemblies, with an administrative fine of HUF 15,000 if violators are unable to pay the HUF 8,000 fine on the spot. MÁV-Start and Volánbusz have also issued a similar statement warning passengers will be removed for failure to properly wear a mask, with fines ranging from HUF 10,000-50,000.
The health benefits for all of mask wearing were underscored by the National Center for Public Health (NNK), which has issued a statement that if 80% of the population wore masks covering their mouth and nose in public, the number of infections would be reduced by a tenth.
The NNK is also discouraging attending large-scale events, whether or not they are allowed by law, particularly where there are many people in an enclosed space with poor ventilation, where the disease spreads most rapidly.
Dr. János Szlávik, chief infectologist of the Szent László Hospital, noted that the disease likely spreads most rapidly amongst young people because they are frequently less symptomatic and may therefore be less compliant in taking measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Regarding financial developments in the ongoing situation, the government has begun negotiations with the Hungarian Banking Association about the possible extension of the moratorium on repayments beyond its expected expiration at the end of the year, according to Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Whether or not they reach such an agreement, borrowers in vulnerable income positions will require a “targeted, temporary and transparent” solution said Gergely Fábián, a managing director at the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), at a conference organized by portfolio.hu. The MNB has also instructed Hungarian banks to extend the suspension on dividend payments until January 1, 2021.
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