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Mar 19, 2020

Coronavirus Update: State of emergency extended

At a press briefing this morning, Gergely Gulyás noted that the state of emergency could only remain in force for a period of 15 days, after which parliament’s approval would be necessary for an extension.

Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, has revealed that is was crucial for parliament to extend the state of emergency declared last week in connection with protective measures against the coronavirus.

At a press briefing this morning, Gulyás noted that the state of emergency could only remain in force for a period of 15 days, after which parliament’s approval would be necessary for an extension.

The minister said parliament will continue to meet during the state of emergency, adding that it was unclear for how long. Though the government does not expect a “emergency scenario” to come into play in this regard, it will still prepare for one, he said.

The minister highlighted that the government took action early on and is working to care for patients, keep the flow of goods open and support the economy. He also noted that Hungary is willing to provide a humanitarian corridor for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, but only if they are allowed in at the Romanian border.

It is in the interests of the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the Austrian Chancellor and PM Orbán to ensure that transit traffic can run smoothly and that Hungarians have access to goods, Gulyás noted.

The government has recognized the seriousness of the situation of those at the border looking to return home and has opened new border crossings. The cabinet has decided that the humanitarian corridor will be open between 9 a.m and 5 p.m., and the border crossings of Kópháza and Rábafüzes are also available. Gulyás indicated that an emergency could also occur, and in this case, they could open the humanitarian corridor during the day as well.

The minister said Hungary is one of the less infected countries in Europe, but we have now entered the phase of cluster infections. There are most likely 10 to 15 times more people currently infected than the number of cases actually detected; this is because approximately 80 percent of those infected might not have any symptoms. Gulyás said that the virus is clearly spreading, and the number of infections is likely to increase in the coming days.

He also emphasized that the government of Hungary took all necessary measures after just 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and the government continues to keep everyone informed

The minister said the most important thing is the protection of human life, but the coronavirus epidemic is also a serious burden on the Hungarian economy. The government has adopted an economy protection action plan to deal with immediate challenges, and all ministers are taking it upon themselves to start thinking about other ways to help support the economy.

There are sectors that have already disappeared, the minister noted. Tourism has stopped completely in Hungary and abroad, and 1,070 hotels in Hungary will have to close.

For those enterprises operating in affected sectors, employers are exempt from paying taxes on wages for the months of March, April, May and June 2020, except for the healthcare contribution, which can’t exceed HUF 7,710. Those liable for the tourism development contribution will also not have to pay this for the period from March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020.

Gulyás said that many offers of help are coming in, and the prime minister has decided to set up another volunteer action group, led by Máriusz Révész. Resources for the fight against the coronavirus are also available, and the country is in a good position to defend itself.

Gulyás also stated that baby loans and student loans do not need to be repaid before December 31, and the APR on consumer loans can be no more 5.9 percent. Furthermore, in the tourism, hospitality, entertainment, gambling, film, event and sports service sectors, leases for non-residential premises may not be terminated until June 30, 2020. This ban may also be extended by government decree. Additionally, rent cannot be increased during this emergency, even if the contract otherwise permits.

A call center set up for advice on the coronavirus can be reached on +36-80-277-455 and +36-80-277-456 or by email koronavirus@bm.gov.hu