2020 coronavirus pandemic in Hungary
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|Arrival date||4 March 2020 (24 days)|
|11 (10 Hungarian and 1 British)|
On 18 March the Surgeon General announced that the virus exists in every part of the country.
At the end of January 2020, a Hungarian operational staff was formed, which was led by Sándor Pintér Interior Minister and Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources, and included Surgeon General Cecília Müller, Károly Papp, Director of Security Department of Interior Ministry, János Balogh, National Police Leader, and the directors of National High Directorate of Disaster Management, Anti-Terrorism Center, Central Hospital of South Pest, National Healthcare Supplying Service and National Ambulance. Staff has immediately announced its plan for security against the spread of virus. After detecting the virus in the country, they announced that operational staff would held daily meetings at noon.
On 1 February, the spokesperson of National Command of Penalty Execution (BVOP) announced that prisoners of Debrecen and Sátoraljaújhely had started the production of sanitary masks. They produce 20 000 masks daily in a 12-hour shift, which are stored in different repositories all around the country. They continually deliver these masks to the general practitioners.
As at the beginning the pandemic was concentrated in and around Wuhan, the source of the virus, Hungarians living there who wanted to move back to Europe, were transported home through France. The affected seven persons were under quarantine for two weeks. As they remained healthy during the next two weeks, they were released on 16 February.
Due to the events and news connected to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, during February 2020, several goods—such as antiseptic arm cleaning materials, masks and non-perishable food – were on shortage in a lot of shops in Hungary. Tamás Schanda, strategical and political under-secretary of Innovation and the Science Ministry said "The Government understands the concerns of the people, but experts say it is unnecessary and pointless to hoard non-perishable food.” The accumulation of goods declined quite quickly, and the detection of the virus in March did not cause measurable problems in shops.
Infections in Hungary
|Confirmed cases in Hungary||343|
|Number of recoveries||34|
|Number of deaths||11|
|Number of quarantined||87|
|Number of samples||10303|
|Last update : March 28, 2020, 07:00 CET|
|Officially reported COVID-19 cases in Hungary|
|In the absence of updates, data from earlier dates is repeated without change (zero if no data is available). The cumulative counts of numbers of samples tested in an accredited laboratory are shown divided by 10, for convenience in comparing the curves.|
The first two known cases were students from Iran, who were studying in Hungary. One of them was enrolled at the Pharmacy Faculty of Semmelweis University. The student did not comply with the preventive measures required by the university as a precaution. He already visited a GP and he was diagnosed with bacterial infection so that he didn't have to quarantine himself, and instead, he attended courses held in English with 16 other students. The other person studied at the Szent István University in Gödöllő, who after returning from Iran, went to a self-declared quarantine. He did not attend lectures at the university, but went to Saint Ladislaus Hospital, and declared that he had arrived from an infected territory.
A third infection was announced on 5 March. He was a 69-year old British man who was working in Milan and travelled frequently between Milan and Debrecen. He developed a fever, so he visited his doctor. He was diagnosed and transported to Gyula Kenézy Hospital. Shortly after, the fourth infected had been announced. She was a girlfriend of one of the Iranian students that were first diagnosed. She was proactively isolated when the virus was diagnosed in the Iranians.
The sixth and seventh infected persons were announced on 8 March. They were exposed to the earlier diagnosed five infected persons. One of them was a friend of one of the Iranian students who was participating in a birthday party. The other was the Hungarian wife of the British man in Debrecen. The next day, two other people were found to be infected, and, like the previous day, one of the infected had also come in contact with the first infected Iranian student. The other one was the wife of the elder man who has been isolated. On 10 March, three new cases were discovered with students related to the first infected Iranian student, so they had remained under quarantine. A day later, a Hungarian woman was announced as the 13th infected. She had come into contact with the first person isolated in Debrecen. Due to this she was hospitalised for several days.
The first death which may have been due to the coronavirus occurred on 11 March. A 99-year-old woman was in hospital, where she was operated on at Saint Imre Hospital. After the successful operation, she had fever and pneumonia. Her daughter – who visited her regularly – got pneumonia the same day. Later, the daughter was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her mother was never tested and so not registered in connection with coronavirus.
Three new cases were reported on 12 March. One was a student from Iran (a contact of the first case) whilst the other two were Hungarian citizens. One of the two Hungarians was a woman who had been in Saint Ladislaus Hospital for several days, the other one was a man travelling from Israel. On 12 March János Szlávik, head of Infectological Department of South Pest Centre Hospital, confirmed that an Iranian citizen, held in quarantine, had recovered. All of his test results were negative.
On 13 March, the number of known cases increased by 3, all of whom were Hungarian citizens. One of them, a 67-year-old man, had met several people from abroad in connection with his work. One other was a 41-year-old man, who had recently been in the Netherlands and England. The third one was a 27-year-old man, who had travelled to Israel with one of the already known infected people.
On 14 March, 11 new people were diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to 30; 6 were announced in the morning and 5 in the evening. All of the new cases were Hungarian citizens. The newly diagnosed patients include people who had been to Italy, and a person whose family member had returned from Austria.
On the 15 March, 2 more people had been diagnosed with COVID-19, for a total of 32. Both of these cases were Hungarian citizens.
On the same day, Sándor Szaniszló, the Mayor of Pestszentlőrinc-Pestszentimre announced the death of a patient at St Ladislaus Hospital who had been diagnosed with coronavirus. He is the first official victim of the pandemic in Hungary. He was a 75 years-old man who had died due to infection with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the COVID-19 sickness.
A second recovered patient had left the hospital on the 16 March, who was from Iran.
On 18 March, 47 out of the 58 confirmed infected people were Hungarian, 9 Iranian, 1 British and 1 Kazakh citizen.
On 19 March there were 9 Iranian, 1 British, 1 Kazakh and 62 Hungarian infected; all together there were 73 cases. Six were in critical condition, and were in the Intensive Department of South Pest Centre Hospital.
On 20 March there were 85 confirmed infected people: 10 Iranian, 1 British, 1 Kazakh and 73 Hungarian citizens. Six of them were in critical condition, whilst 7 had recovered. On this day, three men, a 79, a 68 and a 53-year-old, had died of the 85 infected; the latter had multiple chronic diseases as well. .
On 21 March, the number of confirmed cases was 103: 10 Iranian, 2 British, 1 Kazakh, 1 Vietnamese and 89 Hungarian citizens.
On 22 March, the number of confirmed cases was 131: 10 Iranian, 2 British, 1 Kazakh, 1 Vietnamese and 117 Hungarian citizens.
Before the first infected cases (the Iranian students) were found, György Bakondi, Home Security Advisor of Prime Minister, announced Hungary would block the entrance of illegal immigrants to the transit zone, because many arrive there from Iran which is undergoing a notable outbreak.
On 6 March, it was decided that no more visas would be issued for Iranian citizens.
On 7 March – when the number of known infected people was 5 – it was announced that, due to security reasons, central national ceremonies related to the national holiday of 15 March would not be held. For the same reasons, Gergely Karácsony, Mayor of Budapest announced that celebrations at the town hall were cancelled as well. the same decision was made in several other big towns, such as in Székesfehérvár, Szeged, Kaposvár or Miskolc,Miskolc is and a job fair planned to be held between 18 and 19 March at the University of Technology and Economics was also postponed.
The frequency of disinfection on Budapest public transport vehicles has increased, and the rule about using only the first door for boarding has been suspended, to decrease crowding. On 13 March, similar rules regarding getting on public transport were introduced in Miskolc as well.
The National Ambulance Service has provided more ambulances across the country to make easier the handling of increasing patients. 145 beds were freed for this cause in Saint Ladislaus Hospital, belonging to South Pest Central Hospital. Their capacity is now 81 rooms with 189 beds. If these fill up, other hospitals, capable of handling this type of situation, will also be used for quarantine locations elsewhere in the country. Since 8 March visiting someone in a hospital or in any social institution which provides long term stay has been prohibited.
Operational staff suggested the suspension of air traffic between Milan and Budapest as well as between Milan and Debrecen, because the European centre of the epidemic is in Northern Italy. It has been fully adopted since 9 March. Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport does not allow any plane to land coming from Northern Italy.
Based on the General Assembly of Budapest’s decision dated from 14 March all of kindergartens and créches are closed from 16 March. Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden as well as every thermal baths will remain closed from 16 March. Starting with the same day, BuBi may be used for 100 HUF.
On 17 March the Surgeon General announced that National Safety Laboratory of National Health Security Center has successfully isolated coronavirus from a Hungarian patient's sample, to be used for the researches and production of new vaccine in Hungary. There was a consortium founded by Immunology Department at Faculty of Sciences of Eötvös Loránd University, Biological Institute at Science Faculty of University of Pécs, Richter Gedeon and ImmunoGenes, a company, which is involved in international biotechnological developments. Imre Kacskovics, leader of Immunology Department of ELTE said, product currently under preparation at the first phase it won't be a vaccine, it provides only passive immunity, but it won't be able to prepare the body to fight against virus. Some days after the successful isolation Bioinformatic Research Team of Szentágothay János Research Center at University of Pécs and the virologist experts of the university found the genome of new SARS-CoV-2 human coronavirus available in Hungary.
On 19 March Andrea Bártfai-Mager Minister without portfolio, responsible for National Wealth and the team led by her prepared and accepted recommendations which were the basis of economic decisions published next day.
Declaration of nationwide state of emergency
On 11 March, Gergely Gulyás, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office announced the government decision about introducing a nationwide state of emergency. Teaching in universities is only allowed through virtual education, entry to the country was prohibited from the four most infected countries: People's Republic of China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, with the exception of Hungarian citizens, who would instead be placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Secretaries and employees of the government may travel only after the prior approval of the relevant minister. Border checks were re-implemented at the Austrian and Slovenian borders. Organising events in an enclosed space with more than 100 participants – including theater plays, cinema showings, etc. – were banned. Sport events which might have more than 500 spectators have to be delivered without an audience. The "Határtalanul” (Without Borders) programme, and other programmes allowing students to study a foreign language abroad, were suspended. As, according to the government, the virus is considered dangerous to older people but has no serious impact on children, they found the closure of elementary and high schools unwarranted at the time. Local officials may decide, if day nurseries, pre-schools and kindergartens would operate further.
He added that these measures may be in force indefinitely. He also said “these measures will be effective as long as needed, we do not know for how long it will be needed, but there is a consensus that the length of this period may be not only weeks, but months.”
Decree "40/2020. (issued on 11 March, about the declaration of a state of emergency” was published in Magyar Közlöny on 11 March 2020, in the 39th volume. The Prime Minister was assigned as the responsible person for handling the state of emergency. It became effective on the same day at 3 p.m. State of emergency can take as long as 15 days, then the decision of Parliament is needed to extend its validity.
After the announcement, the Ministry of Human Capacity requested principals of schools to cancel all programmes, including the celebration of 15 March, camps, open-air-schools, traveling to abroad, field trips, everything related to Határtalanul, Erasmus, Erasmus+, language courses abroad, visits to partner schools.
On 13 March during his regular radio interview Viktor Orbán announced that closing of kindergartens was not required, because parents would have to guarantee children's supervision, and teachers would be required to take unpaid leave. During the same evening, Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary announced the closure of elementary and high schools and a switch to e-learning, effective 16 March. Ten action teams have been founded, one of which would start preparing temporary container hospitals for the duration of the pandemic in Kiskunhalas. Israel was added to the list of countries from which foreigners would no longer be allowed into Hungary, after it surfaced that two of the people diagnosed with COVID-19 had returned from Israel a few days prior.
After declaring that, from 16 March, all schools would be closed and e-learning would be implemented, the Educational Authority published the first version of its methodological recommendations. On the 14th they published the order about terminal suspension of judgement at courts.
In spite of the notices issued by operational staff about responsible behaviour and moderation, a 30-year-old security guard shared fake news on YouTube regarding the pandemic. He was the subject of police action.
On 16 March, Viktor Orbán announced new measures during urgent and topical speeches at the National Assembly. Effective from midnight the whole Hungarian border would be closed, with entrance permitted only for Hungarian citizens. All events will be banned. Restaurants and cafés have to close at 3 p.m. Only grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to remain open past this time.
Economic decisions for managing the emergency
Mihály Varga Minister of Finance said the government had to react to the real needs of the economy, and they were still waiting for the feedback from the trade and industry chamber. On 18 March during the early afternooon hours Viktor Orbán announced several upcoming decisions. Though he used his own Facebook page instead of the dedicated communication channels. The decisions were as follow:
- All due payments are suspended which are caused by loans to persons and companies. It is valid for capital and interest payment as well. This is in force up to the end of the year.
- Short-term loans for companies are prolonged up to 30 June.
- Loans delivered from 19 March may have a maximum 5% above the Hungarian National Bank’s interest rate.
- Government remits subsidiaries which should have to paid based on the number of employees on the fields of tourism, catering, leisure, sport, culture and personal taxi services. Employees working in these sectors do not have to pay a pension subsidiary and the fee for receiving the benefits of the health sector is the minimum fee declared in the act.
- Taxi drivers subject to the Kata tax system are exempt from tax until 30 June.
- Rental contracts which are in connection with the above listed sectors may not be abrogated, rental fees may not be increased.
- Contribution to the development of tourism (a kind of tax) is suspended until 30 June.
- Labour rules will be more flexible, to make agreements between employers and employees easier.
The Order about these changes was published in the 18 March edition of Magyar Közlöny. Mihály Varga Minister of Finance and representatives of Hungarian Banking Association had a meting regarding actions listed above.
Sports during the pandemic
Nearly all sport events were affected by the state of emergency introduced on 11 March. It banned all indoor events with at least 100 and every outdoor events with at least 500 participants. As a consequence the next 25th round of 2019–20 Nemzeti Bajnokság I had to be made without spectators. Only 6 out of 55 member states of UEFA had open matches, which were free to visit. On 16 March there was a decision made about suspension of the championship, suspending all matches.
On 11 March they ended Erste Liga 2019–2020 Hungarian ice hockey championship, which was at the semi-final stage, and the same decision was made about all other ice hockey championships in the country. All matches part of championships and cup series organised by the Hungarian Handball Association were suspended. The same decision was made by the Hungarian Water Polo Federation. Basketball and volleyball championships were also suspended. The National Swimming Championship has also been prolonged. The Hungarian Boxing Association announced the evacuation of participants from London, where qualification for the 2020 Summer Olympics were ongoing. Hungarian Karate Federation announced that they temporally cancel karate contents part of the content calendar. On 13 March they three étaps of Giro d’Italia in the country have been cancelled, On 17 March the most well-known Hungarian bicycle tour, Tour de Hongrie has been moved from May to October.
Due to the state of emergency in Bulgaria, they banned all sport events in the country up to 29 March. As a result, the qualifying match between Bulgaria and Hungary has been postponed. On 17 March, UEFA postponed the whole championship a year to 2021, which is scheduled to be held among other countries apart from Hungary.
European Karate Federation informed Hungarian Karate Federation about the cancelling European Championship that year, planned to take place in Baku from 25 to 29 March. This championship is part of the qualification events to the Olympics.
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