Hungary imposes border checks, quarantine to prevent spread of virus

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian-Austrian is closed near Nickelsdorf
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian-Austrian is closed near Nickelsdorf

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary has imposed new restrictions on cross-border travel as of next Wednesday in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after a surge in new cases in several countries, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Sunday.

Hungary lifted most of its lockdown restrictions in May and opened its borders to travellers from European Union states and neighbouring non-EU members.

On Sunday, Gergely Gulyas told an online news conference that new restrictions were needed to keep the coronavirus "outside the borders" in order to avoid the re-introduction of domestic lockdown measures.

"These restrictions serve to protect our freedom," Gulyas said.

Under the new rules, Hungarian nationals returning from high risk countries listed as "yellow" and "red" will have to go through health checks at the border and will have to go into 14 days of quarantine even if they are not infected. This can only be avoided with two negative COVID-19 tests from the previous 5 days, Gulyas said.

The same applies to foreigners coming from "yellow" countries, but those from "red" countries will be barred from entry.

Countries in the Balkans such as Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and neighbouring Ukraine belong to the red category, among some other states.

Serbia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are among countries listed as "yellow", while travel from Croatia -- a popular holiday destination for Hungarians -- is free for the time being. The list will be regularly reviewed.

Transit and cargo travel, as well as business trips are exempt from the restrictions but health checks can be conducted.

Hungary, which has a population of around 10 million, had recorded 4,234 cases of COVID-19 and 595 related deaths as of Sunday. It reported five new infections on Sunday.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; editing by David Evans and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)