“Goodbye masks” – Hungary to lift most COVID-19 curbs, PM Orban says

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks at a news conference in Budapest, Hungary

Hungary will lift most remaining COVID-19 curbs, including a night-time curfew, as soon as the number of those vaccinated reaches 5 million this weekend, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Orban told state radio that masks would no longer need to be worn in public, and gatherings of up to 500 people could be held in the open air, with events in closed spaces open to though to people with vaccination cards.

“This means we have defeated the third wave of the pandemic,” Orban said, adding that the time has come to say “goodbye to masks” in public places.

Hungary is the only EU country to have approved and used Russian and Chinese vaccines in large quantities before the European Medicines Agency has examined or approved them.

This has enabled it to reach one of the EU’s highest inoculation rates, with 50% of its population of around 10 million having already had at least one shot.

Most aspects of its service industry are already back in operation, including hotels, restaurants, spas, theatres, cinemas, gyms and sports venues.

The economy shrank by 5% last year, and Orban, who faces elections in 2022, said this year’s GDP growth could be higher than the government’s current projection of 4.3%.

He reiterated that the government has decided to extend a COVID-19 loan repayment moratorium until the end of August, in order to allow banks and the government to continue talks and hammer out plans regarding the future of the moratorium.

Lower-income borrowers would have to be supported further on, he said, without going into details.

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