Hungary seals its borders and instructs bars, restaurants to close their doors

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Hungary will close its borders to foreign citizens beginning at midnight on Monday, while only pharmacies and grocery stores will be permitted to keep normal business hours, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced in Parliament early Monday.

The coronavirus will reach a new level in coming days, and the public should prepare for an increase in infections, Orbán said, adding that mitigating the spread of the epidemic can only be acheived through the limiting of social contact. Public events will be cancelled, while bars, cinemas and cultural institutions will be closed. Coffee houses, restaurants and other shops must close their doors by 3 p.m. with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores, and sporting events will be held to empty stands.

The prime minister urged people to cancel all engagements with the exception of family gatherings, and warned elderly people that they are the most vulnerable to the virus. He said that while the government cannot prohibit those over 70 from leaving their homes, he urged them to remain at home "not because they will infect others, but because they themselves are in danger". He asked local governments to extend assistance to the elderly.

Orbán said that the epidemic threatens the entire Hungarian economy, and that the government will take steps in the coming days to assist economic sectors that have already been affected, like hospitality and tourism. The entire central budget must be replanned, which will be coordinated by Finance Minister Mihály Varga, and the government will focus its efforts in the coming weeks to the protection of jobs, he said. 

"A very serious wave of unemployment threatens Hungary. I ask every employer and employee to take personal efforts to retain their jobs," Orbán said. 

The prime minister said that "we are facing an invisible and unknown enemy", and warned that managing the spread of the virus will be a long and difficult process as vaccines are developed, which is likely to take more than a year.  

On Monday, the government announced that seven new cases of coronavirus had been discovered, bringing the total in Hungary to 39. The government's coronavirus information website as down as of noon on Monday due to overtraffic. 

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