It seems that the Hungarian government’s decision on Friday to close the country’s borders as of Sept. 1 was once again the right decision at the right time.
On Sunday, two days after the decision to close the border was made, it was reported the number of fresh infections in Hungary has hit a new high of 292, almost half again as many as on April 10, the first peak of the pandemic here.
“The number of cases is rising all over the world, we are experiencing the second wave of the pandemic,” Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller told national news agency MTI on Sunday. “The number of cases is mainly rising due to the disease being carried in from abroad and social gatherings, thus it is crucial to avoid bringing in the infection from Sept. 1 and only healthy people should have social contacts.”
Meanwhile, the school year will begin tomorrow, on Sept. 1, with normal attendance but heightened security measures.
While teachers and pupils will not have to wear face masks, every visitor will be required to wear them. Disinfectant stations will also be installed in all schools and classrooms will be reorganized for safe social distancing. Several other measures will be implemented to avoid the formation of crowds within schools, including a staggered break system between classes.
At the official opening ceremony of the new school year on Sunday, Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler said that now Hungarians should continue to display the same vital discipline they showed during the first wave. He has also announced that during the summer, the government provided 4.6 billion forints (€13 million) for school reconstruction projects.
Müller stressed the importance of individual responsibility during this second wave, including observing all hygienic measures.
“Masks remain compulsory on public transport and in shops, but are also recommended everywhere where a 1.5-meter distance cannot be maintained,” Müller said. In the second half of last week, Hungarian police also stepped up efforts to enforce mask rules, mainly at train and long-distance bus stations, but so far only warnings have been issued and fines have not yet been imposed.
Meanwhile, the government has clarified the rules regarding the entry of foreign nationals. From Sept. 1, the main rule is that foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the country.
Exceptions include court appearances, business trips proven by an invitation letter, medical treatment, goods transports or attending major family events. Guest workers from neighboring countries can travel to their workplace in Hungary provided it is less than 30 kilometers from the border.
All applications for exceptions must be approved by the police.
Title image: Nurse attends coronavirus patient during an exercise on August 27, 2020. (MTI/Zoltán Balogh)