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Most COVID Restrictions Lifted for all but Healthcare Workers

Government

The German-American Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the Comirnaty vaccine, being prepared for vaccination at a facility set up at the Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County Central Hospital and University Teaching Hospital in Miskolc on March 9, 2022.

Photo by János Vajda / MTI

Experts believe the fifth wave of the pandemic “is approaching an end,” Gergely Gulyás, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, said at a weekly press briefing on March 3 announcing a sweeping rollback of protective restrictions.

Gulyás said that the government would end the mandate requiring the wearing of facemasks in enclosed spaces such as concert venues, public transport, and shops on March 7 while also phasing out regulations on immunity certificates. Additionally, employers will no longer be empowered to require that their workers receive vaccinations.

However, exceptions will continue to be made for the healthcare sector, with masks still required in hospitals and nursing homes, and social and healthcare workers are still expected to get inoculated. One welcome change is that the Ministry of Human Capacities has announced that visiting restrictions at these institutions have been eased.

Despite the improving situation, the government decided to extend the weekend inoculation drive through March, State Secretary István György said, according to koronavirus.gov.hu. As has been the case since late last year, people may get COVID jabs at hospitals and regional vaccination centers without an appointment on Thursdays and Fridays, between 2-6 p.m., and on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., György said.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s Competition Office (GVH) has launched a probe into the local market for COVID antigen rapid diagnostic tests on suspicion of market distortion, according to novekedes.hu [Growth]. GVH said that market feedback had suggested that advertising for such tests “may exaggerate performance as defined by the manufacturer.”

Hungary’s government recently started allowing retailers that aren’t licensed pharmacies to sell COVID rapid tests based on a GVH recommendation to boost competition in the market.

Vaccine Diplomacy

Scheduled vaccine orders continue to be delivered regularly, with another two shipments of 36,000 Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jabs for children aged five to 11 arriving on March 1 and 8. Hungary also continues to make vaccine donations abroad, giving 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to Thailand, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó. That gift brought the total number of COVID jabs Hungary has donated to Thailand to date to half a million, Szijjártó said.

So far, Hungary has helped support the inoculation campaigns of 17 countries with the delivery of 4.2 million COVID jabs, he added.

Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Szijjártó commented that we are seeing the disintegration of the world economic status quo for the second time in two years. “We managed to avert the economic effects of the pandemic, but here is another blow, the war,” Szijjártó said at the opening of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) on March 1, according to business daily Világgazdaság.

“We will make every effort to bring peace to the neighborhood, but the time will come when we can talk about Hungary being one of the strongest in the current global economic environment,” he said.

At the timing of going to press, 2,632 new infections had been reported for March 8, bringing the total number of infected in Hungary to 1,809,917. Some 54 people died from the disease on that day, bringing the total number of COVID deaths in Hungary to 44,549. Numbers for both new infections and deaths are down, with weekly cases falling from 32,750 to 20,872 and weekly deaths from 686 to 534. At this point, 1,641,256 have recovered from the disease.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 11, 2022.

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