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Mar 17, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

The fight against the coronavirus has entered a new stage

“The defense against the coronavirus has entered a new stage,” said Colonel Tibor Lakatos, Head of the Operational Group, at today’s press conference of the Operational Group. Joined by Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller, he added that “to help with this, a government decree was adopted including measures that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán introduced yesterday in Parliament.”

Colonel Lakatos reiterated the list of new measures: banned events, sport competitions of a limited number of attendees having to take place behind closed doors, and the closure of cafes and restaurants at 3:00 p.m. Some service providers are excluded from the closure obligation.

“In the event that someone orders food,” he said, “customers can enter the restaurant or cafe to pay for and pick up their order.”

Lakatos emphasized that the new rules will be strictly enforced. Violators of the new rules may face fines from HUF 5,000 to HUF 500,000.

Regarding the border closure, Colonel Lakatos announced a temporary opening tonight:  Romanians and Bulgarians may cross the border into Hungary at Hegyeshalom and use the previously designated humanitarian corridors and rest stops to return to home. Romanian citizens may enter from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and Bulgarian citizens may enter from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller announced that the number of confirmed infections reached 50 on Tuesday morning. She warned that in the next few days, the number could multiply even more to reach a few hundred, as a single patient can infect two to three other people.

“We are constantly transforming our healthcare system to keep our care of patients running smoothly,” she said, again emphasizing that “the elderly, especially those above the age of 70, are particularly vulnerable. That’s why we would like to ask them to not go into any community and if they do, keep a social distance of two meters.”

Müller also had some good news: Researchers at the Laboratory of the National Center for Public Health were able to isolate the COVID-19 virus for the first time. “This is a huge achievement that creates an opportunity to develop a vaccine in Hungary,” the Chief Medical Officer said, adding that “the lab will make the results available to the scientific community soon, and then testing of antiviral agents can start.”