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Coronavirus restrictions start being lifted in Budapest

People wearing face-masks in the Budapest metro

Budapest, Hungary – Two weeks after anti-coronavirus curbs started being lifted in the rest of the country, the government announced the easing of curfew restrictions in Budapest.

“It has become clear that we’ve managed to curb the epidemic in Budapest as well”, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video posted on his Facebook page. “Therefore we can shift to the second phase of defence in Budapest as well, cautiously”.

Starting on Monday, May 18, all shops in Budapest will be allowed to reopen as long as they maintain a three-hour window from 9 – 12 am specifically reserved for elderly people aged 65 and more.

Outside terraces of restaurants and cafes are also able to reopen from today, as well as public parks, outdoor playgrounds and the zoo.

Despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Budapest, people will however need to wear face-masks in shops and on public transport and maintain an appropriate distance from each other in order to prevent another spike in new Covid-19 cases.

Budapest, which has reported the biggest concentration of coronavirus cases in Hungary, joins the rest of the country where similar measures were lifted on May 4. Only a few other cities had decided to play it safe and keep restrictions in place one week longer.

On Monday morning, the country had more than 3,500 confirmed cases of infection and 462 deaths.

“We have succeeded because we made all the decisions in time”, Orban said in the Facebook video after government experts announced the epidemic was receding. “And because […] everyone, people in the countryside, citizens of Budapest, single people, families, the elderly and young people alike, we all behaved responsibly”.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban came under fierce criticism, both at home and abroad, after Parliament approved a special “coronavirus act” granting the Premier special emergency powers and allowing the government to rule by decree without any time-limit. While critics warned that Orban could be using the fight against Covid-19 as an excuse for an authoritarian power grab, government officials claimed the bill was necessary to contain the epidemic and proportionate to the threat to public health.

During a recent visit to Serbia, the Prime Minister said he could give up his emergency powers by the end of the month.

Main photo credit: Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.