Hungary’s government announced on Sunday that it was barring travel from Africa, most of Asia apart from China and Japan, and restricting entry from several European countries due to spikes in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyas stated that Hungarian health officials have placed 154 countries into three risk categories based on numbers of coronavirus infections.
“We need to protect our security so that the virus is not introduced from abroad… the level of active infection cases at home is falling, and we want to keep it like that,” he told reporters in Budapest.
Entry into Hungary would be barred for citizens from countries assessed as “red” from Tuesday midnight, including all African and Asian countries apart from China and Japan.
European countries in the red zone are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Montenegro, as well as Hungary’s neighbour Ukraine.
Hungarian citizens returning from “red” countries must pass a virus test and undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, said Gulyas.
Citizens from countries in a “yellow” category — including the US, UK, Norway, Serbia, Russia, China, and Japan — will have to enter two-week quarantine unless they have tested negative for the virus within five days.
Four of Hungary’s fellow EU members — Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden, and neighbouring Romania — will also face the same restrictions.
Countries in the “green” category can continue to enter without restrictions.
Hungary’s population of almost 10 million has been lightly affected by the pandemic in comparison with other parts of Europe, reporting just over 4,200 coronavirus infections and around 595 deaths so far.
Earlier this month, Orban said Hungary would not follow an EU recommendation to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for more countries outside the bloc, citing a risk to health.
The EU’s border relaxation, announced June 30 and left to member states to implement, was a bid to help rescue the continent’s battered tourism sector, which had been choked by a ban on non-essential travel in place since mid-March.
The number of infections and deaths has risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations, with the United States crossing three million confirmed cases.
In Europe, where many nations had successfully suppressed their outbreaks, spikes have occurred in recent weeks.