Policy responses for Hungary - HSRM


Policy responses for Hungary

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

From the 4th of May, citizens of Slovakia, Czechia, Germany, Poland, Austria and the Republic of Korea can enter Hungary and don’t have to go into quarantine if they are employees of affiliated companies in these countries and are on a probable business trip at the time of entry. Moreover, Hungarian citizens can cross the Hungarian border without restrictions, if they return from a business trip from the above listed countries and they are employees of a company that has business in Hungary and in one of the six listed countries.

The seasonal workers from neighbouring countries are allowed to enter to the country to support agricultural harvesting work, as announced on the 7th of May. The applicants must undergo a medical examination before entering the country. [1]

On the 13th of May, two border crossing points for passenger traffic were opened between Hungary and Austria (especially for citizens commuting between Hungary and Austria). Negotiations with Slovenia have started as well in order to lift the restrictive measures affecting the border crossing. The target date is the 1st of June.

Hungary has continued to reopen its borders with neighbouring countries, so that citizens of Hungary and citizens of other countries can cross borders without restrictions and mandatory quarantine. Border reopening took place in the following stages:
• 25 May: Serbia
• 27 May: Czechia, Slovakia (as long as the stay does not exceed 48 hours)
• 28 May: Slovenia
• 5 June: Austria, Czechia, Slovakia (no time limit for the stay)
• 7 June: Germany
• 12 June: Croatia
• 18 June: Romania

From the 15th of July, travel restrictions are in place again. Based on the recommendation of the Operative Corps, the government has decided to classify countries into three categories – red, yellow and green – depending on the gravity of the coronavirus situation in each country.

Different rules apply to Hungarian citizens and their relatives and to non-Hungarian citizens. Hungarian citizens arriving from countries in the green category are free to enter the country without controls. At the same time, Hungarians entering the country from countries falling into the yellow or red category are subject to health screenings and are required to quarantine for 14 days. Hungary allows an exception to this rule if the person arriving in Hungary is able to present negative coronavirus test results, but they should do a second test as well. Hungarian citizens arriving from yellow countries are released from quarantine after the first negative coronavirus test result. In the case of countries in the red category, two negative test results are required from tests conducted over 5 days, with 48 hours between the two tests.

In the case of non-Hungarian citizens, individuals from countries categorized as yellow are allowed to enter the country under the same conditions as Hungarians, while citizens from countries falling into the red category are not allowed to enter Hungary.

Transit passengers, cargo traffic and official travel constitutes an exception to these rules.

The government will regularly review the list of countries every Wednesday, and if necessary, the categorization of the countries will change.

At present, among EU Member States, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Sweden fall into the yellow category, while among non-EU Member States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Japan, China and the United States do.

Among European countries, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Ukraine (as the only neighboring country) fall into the red category. The countries of Asia, Africa and South America are also designated in this category.
The government will cover the costs of testing until August 1st; after that, everyone will have to cover the testing costs themselves [2,3].

From the 1st of September, the distinction between the countries is abolished. Foreign citizens will not be allowed to enter the territory of Hungary except in justified circumstances, and must observe the relevant safety regulations. At the same time, Hungarians returning from abroad will be required to quarantine for 14 days, or until they are able to present two negative tests with forty-eight hours between the two tests.

Exceptions are – similar to the previous phase of infections – military convoys and business travel between related undertakings. Border crossings will be allowed during limited hours, and travel via humanitarian corridors will be guaranteed also in the future, in accordance with the rules in effect earlier. Specific rules will apply to international sporting events, while diplomatic and official travel will also be allowed. These stricter border protection rules will be valid for one month [4].

From 21st of September Hungarian nationals returning to Hungary from abroad in passenger traffic are now required to retire to compulsory home quarantine or designated quarantine for 10 days instead of the earlier 14. Non-Hungarian nationals may only enter the territory of Hungary in passenger traffic in possession of a permit issued by the competent police constabulary, and they are also required to retire to quarantine [5].

From the 1st of October, the government has extended the border closure by another month, but changed the travel restrictions for nationals of the Visegrád countries. Hungarian nationals and their family members entering Hungary from the Czech Republic, Poland or Slovakia who booked accommodation in one of the V4 countries before the regulation came into force are only required to present one negative PCR test result in order to be relieved of the obligation of disease control observation.

Similarly, Czech, Polish and Slovak nationals will also be able to travel to Hungary under less stringent conditions until 1 November if they have one negative PCR test result and booked accommodation in Hungary for at least one day in October prior to the entry into force of the regulation [6].

[1] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/agrarkamara-lehetove-valik-kulfoldi-idenymunkasok-foglalkoztatasa-mezogazdasagban
[2] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/terkepen-piros-sarga-es-zold-jelzesu-orszagok
[4] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/teljes-belso-hataron-visszaallitja-kormany-hatarellenorzest-szeptember-elsejetol
[5] https://www.kormany.hu/en/news/persons-returning-from-abroad-face-ten-day-quarantine
[6] https://www.kormany.hu/en/news/rules-relating-to-facilitated-entry-of-v4-nationals-reregulated

As the first cases appeared in Europe in January, a so-called Operative Corps was established in Hungary led by the Interior Minister and the Minister of Human Capacities. The role of the Operative Corps is to organise the medical and epidemiological measures in order to protect the citizens of Hungary, and to coordinate the activities of other state bodies. The Government first supported the containment efforts with 8 billion HUF, which was supplemented on the 25th of March with 15,2 billion HUF for purchasing medical devices.

On the 25th of June, Hungary established an Operative Corps for Economic Protection to coordinate the actions supporting the Hungarian economy, with special regard to the workplaces [11].

With regard to the situation in Italy, on the 11th of March the Government declared State of Emergency, which allowed to introduce quick and extraordinary measures. For the defence against coronavirus, ten task forces have been set up by the Government: Coronavirus Education Task Force, Task Force for the Establishment of a Temporary Infection Hospital (a container hospital at Kiskunhalas), Task Force for the Security of Critical Hungarian Corporates, International Coordination Task Force, Communication Task Force, Legal Task Force for the Regulation of the State of Emergency, Financial Task Force, Border Control Task Force, Task Force for the Research of Coronavirus, Task Force for the Restart of the Hungarian Economy. On the 30th of March, the Parliament approved the State of Emergency until it is withdrawn.

As part of the “State of Emergency package”, border control to Austria and Slovenia was reinstated, and border-crossing from the outbreak countries (South-Korea, Iran, Italy) was not allowed anymore. Since the 12th of March, essential health care workers (physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals) were asked to stay in the country and return from abroad. From the 16th of March, the borders were closed for passenger transportation, and obliged Hungarian citizens entering the territory of Hungary from abroad to undergo a medical examination, and depending on the outcome of which they are subjected to different types of quarantine. The decision allowed to remain a humanitarian passage open for foreign individuals passing through.

Several extraordinary measures were announced to protect the economy and the reconsideration of the central government budget has begun. The most important interventions are the following:
• Moratorium on payments of loans for individuals and businesses until the end of the year.
• Extension of maternity allowances until the end of the State of Emergency.
• Over 81,000 small businesses have exemption from the tax of small business until the end of June.
• Businesses in 11 professions, mainly in tourism, food and beverage services, as well as media services, are not required to pay contributions and their employees are allowed to pay reduced taxes as well.
• In sectors such as tourism, food and beverage services, entertainment industry and sport services, the employer is exempted from paying tax and other contributions after the employees in March, April, May and June.
• HUF 150 billion will be provided for the complete renovation of lodgings in Hungary, as well as for further tourism developments. Each private accommodation will receive a subsidy of HUF 1 million per room for renovation this year [5].
• Private and municipally owned companies in Pest County are able to apply forto a new program facilitating the constructions of new accommodations. Companies areThe eligible to apply for grants between amount is HUF 80-300 million. [12].
• In order to maintain the operation of micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses, the Széchenyi Card Program will be expanded with four special newly developed loan products. The “Széchenyi Job Retention Loan” with a two-year term will be available for up to HUF 750 million. The “Széchenyi Current Account Credit” will be opened only together with the “Széchenyi Job Retention Loan” for up to a maximum HUF 100 million with 50-50 percent rate. The “Széchenyi Liquidity Loan” will be available for HUF 250 million with three years term, while the term of the “Széchenyi Investment Loan Plus” will be maximum 6 years up to a maximum HUF 1 billion.
• An interest-free loan for farmers up to HUF 200 million until the end of the year.
• A new agricultural investment tender package has been announced, with an amount of HUF 80 billion, for the livestock and horticultural sector in order to reduce the effects of COVID-19 on the agricultural economy and increase competitiveness [6].
• Businesses with employees who work at least two hours per day are able to apply for wage subsidies and loans with a preferential interest rate
• The state has taken over 104 companies in order to ensure the supply of food and medicine for the population.
• HUF one billion will be reallocated from the resources of the Ministry of Human Capacities for supporting independent artists, who lost their income.
• The budget of the Enterprise Modernisation Program was raised to HUF 100 billion. Applications for over double the 50-billion-forint budget available have been submitted for the tender aimed at facilitating the technological modernisation of enterprises [7]. Those building permits, which are expiring within six months after the end of the State of Emergency, will be automatically renewed [7].
• Over the summer, Hungary launched a new program for Hungarian enterprises that invest at least HUF 560 million to maintain jobs. The value of support can reach the half of the investment. Grant applications can be submitted until September 30, and investments must be made over the next two years [9].
• From mid-November, HUF 2.5 billion support will be available for small farms, with a flat-rate aid of HUF 5.2 million (EUR 15,000) [20].

On the 4th of April, the government announced an update to the central government budget, whereby two funds, the so-called Pandemic Protection Fund and the Fund for Economic Protection and Restart will be launched. The government has started to create the necessary funds by withdrawing and reallocating 1,345 billion HUF from the ministries. Funding will also come from 50 percent of this year’s party subsidies, a trade tax on multinational chains, a contribution from the financial sector and the car tax of the municipalities.

On the 3rd of July, the Parliament accepted the new central government budget for 2021 including resources for maintaining the epidemiological preparedness as well as the economic protection [8]. As a result of the economic protection measures and protection-related expenditure, the deficit of the central government approached 2165 billion HUF (6.156 billion EUR) at the end of July [14]. In 2020, the budget deficit will be between 7 and 9 per cent of GDP, according to Péter Benő Banai, Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance on the 27th of August [4].

On the 6th of April, the Prime Minister introduced a comprehensive action plan for economic protection with three steps. The first step includes all of the interventions, which have already been announced. The second step will have five different programmes. The first will focus on preserving jobs by covering the wages of part-time employees. The second, the Family and Retirement Protection Program, will rebuild the one month extra pension (the so-called pension for the “13th month”) in four steps by 2024. The third will focus on key sectors of the economy that need to start again. In order to finance companies, in total more than 2,000 billion HUF interest-subsidized and guaranteed loans will be provided to Hungarian companies. Under the fifth programme to create new jobs, investments will be supported with 450 billion HUF. The third step will only be introduced, in case more jobs will need to be saved or created and the programs of the second step need to be supplemented.

On the 8th of April, György Matolcsy, the Governor of the Central Bank, announced that the Monetary Council of the Central Bank of Hungary will provide a total of 3,000 billion HUF to protect the financial system, which is 6 percent of Hungary’s expected GDP in 2020.
The government offers safe accommodation to victims of domestic violence while the current disease control measures are in effect. The new rules were announced by the Minister of Justice, Judit Varga, on the 7th of May, and are designed to facilitate communication for divorced or separated parents with their children [3].

“During the second wave of the virus, we must prevent the previously seen partial shutdown of the Hungarian economy”, announced Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade [17]. The Minister confirmed that the government’s goal of avoiding unemployment remains [18].

Hungary turned to the Turkic Council for health protection equipment, and received considerable help from Turkey and Uzbekistan. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, announced on his Facebook page on the 13th of May, that the countries of the Turkic Council have decided to establish an investment fund, which Hungary will also join [2]. A Hungary-China air bridge was established, through which gloves, respirators, masks, materials for mask production, tests and patient monitors arrived to the country. In addition, Hungary will benefit from the reallocation of EU funds as well. Since the 25th of March, it is forbidden to export hydroxychloroquine-sulfate, as well as medicines and intermediate products containing the same active substance from Hungary during the State of Emergency.
On the 9th of July, it was announced that a new program will be launched with a HUF 50 billion budget to develop production capacities in the health sector. The application will likely open at the end of the summer with detailed information [10].

The government will sponsor the organization of minimum 150 “garage gigs” to the tune of more than HUF 5 billion, where actors of the domestic pop and rock scene will be able to play their songs with professional technology and the assistance of their own touring staff. This program was announced by Alexandra Szentkirályi, the Government Spokesperson, on the 5th of August. She said the recordings of these concerts are expected to be aired sometime in September [16].

A tender of HUF 700 million has been published to support music festivals with more than 500 participants. These music festivals include ones which were delayed, or held the event with a significantly reduced program [19].

More than ten thousand teachers will receive an extra one-time bonus of HUF 500.000 gross, as announced by Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Capacities on the 27th of August [11].

On the 21st of August, Csaba Dömötör, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Cabinet Office, announced that within days, the government will launch a campaign to promote Hungarian products [15].

[2] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/news/countries-of-turkic-council-establish-investment-fund-with-involvement-of-hungary 
[3] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-justice/news/justice-minister-judit-varga-government-helps-victims-of-domestic-violence-and-divorced-or-separated-parents-also-during-state-of-danger
[4] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-for-national-economy/news/consolidation-could-begin-as-early-as-next-year
[5] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/guller-ujabb-150-milliard-forint-jut-turisztikai-fejlesztesekre
[6] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/nagy-istvan-ujabb-80-milliard-forint-jut-az-allattenyesztes-es-kerteszet-tamogatasara
[7] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-for-national-economy/news/government-to-double-budget-of-enterprise-modernisation-program-to-100-billion-forints[7] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/automatikusan-meghosszabbodnak-az-epitesi-engedelyekvalidityvalidity
[8] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/elfogadta-2021-es-koltsegveteset-az-orszaggyules
[9] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/szijjarto-uj-program-indul-magyar-vallalatok-tamogatasaert
[10] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/pm-kormany-50-milliard-forintos-kerettel-tamogatasi-programot-inditott-az-egeszsegugyi
[11] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/magyar-gazdasag-es-munkahelyek-vedelme-gazdasagvedelmi-operativ-torzs-legfobb-feladata
[12] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/penzugyminiszter-ketmilliard-forintos-panzioepitesi-palyazat-indul
[13] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-human-resources/news/ten-thousand-teachers-to-receive-an-extra-one-time-bonus-of-five-hundred-thousand-forints-before-tax
[14] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-for-national-economy/news/the-budget-is-continuing-to-fully-provide-the-resources-required-for-protecting-against-the-epidemic[14]
[15] https://www.kormany.hu/en/cabinet-office-of-the-prime-minister/news/campaign-to-promote-hungarian-products-to-be-launched
[16] https://www.kormany.hu/en/government-spokesperson/news/government-has-already-helped-many-sectors-it-is-now-musicians-turn
[17] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/news/we-must-prevent-the-shutdown-of-the-hungarian-economy
[18] https://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/news/the-extraordinary-measures-are-also-protecting-the-economy
[19] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/turisztikai-ugynokseg-megjelent-palyazat-konnyuzenei-fesztivalok-tamogatasara
[20] https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/am-25-milliard-forint-tamogatas-nyilik-mezogazdasagi-kisuzemeknek