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12th March, 2020

Cabinet decrees state of emergency

The cabinet has placed a ban on travel from four countries hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak and has forbidden large gatherings, as part of a series of measures to prevent a pandemic, PMO leader Gergely Gulyas announced yesterday.

The cabinet has also declared a state of emergency, in effect immediately.

No non-Hungarians will be allowed to enter the country if they are coming from Italy, China, South Korea or Iran. Any Hungarians arriving from those countries will be quarantined.

Hungary will work closely with Slovenia and Austria to block infections spreading from Italy. All flights, trains and buses will be stopped at the Slovene and Austrian borders from midnight Wednesday.

The ban on large gatherings applies to indoor events for more than 100 people and outdoor events for more than 500 people. This ban does not apply to workplaces or shopping malls, but does apply to theatres and cinemas.

Consultations will be held with churches on holding religious services, Gulyas added.

The cabinet also decided yesterday to ban university classes, he said, adding that such classes can be conducted remotely.

As the disease does not typically affect children, there is no need to close primary and secondary schools, Gulyas said.

He confirmed that all students are banned from going on excursions abroad.

State secretaries and cabinet ministers may only travel abroad with permission.

The state of emergency took effect at 3 p.m. Wednesday and will remain in effect for 15 days. Any extension must be approved by Parliament.

Gulyas said more government decrees will be issued in the coming hours and days.

He added that the cabinet expects the epidemic to last for months, rather than weeks. (index.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; mfor.hu; hvg.hu; origo.hu; propeller.hu; atv.hu)
12th March, 2020

Orban links epidemic to migration

Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed that there is a link between illegal migration and the coronavirus epidemic while talking to his EU counterparts in a video conference on Monday night.

In the conference initiated by European Council president Charles Michel, Orban said a number of illegal immigrants are arriving from Iran or have passed through Iran, which is one of the hotbeds of the epidemic.

The eight Iranians in Hungary who have been diagnosed with the virus arrived here with visas issued by the government.

Orban told his EU peers that Hungary is now focusing on protection against the coronavirus, adding that Hungarian authorities have the situation under control.

He stressed the need to find a balance between downplaying the importance of the issue and panicking.

Co-operation with Austrian authorities has been excellent, he remarked.

Regarding the future, Orban said the cabinet is striving to make sure that the virus exerts the least possible impact on the economy, and that the cabinet is examining ways and means of extending support to Hungarian businesses in harmony with European regulations. (index.hu; origo.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; atv.hu; propeller.hu; 24.hu; magyarhirlap.hu)
12th March, 2020

Ministry at odds with doctors

Doctors and nurses do not have adequate quantities of protective equipment, Chamber of Doctors president Gyula Kincses told a Wednesday press conference.

Health workers are doing their job, but they expect the cabinet to do the same by providing adequate protective equipment, primarily more masks as there are too few of those, he said.

Kincses warned that doctors and nurses might stop taking on voluntary overtime and said the cabinet should ensure salaries to health care workers that will keep them in Hungary. Wage talks continue to proceed, and are still ongoing, he added.

Vice-president Peter Almos said doctors will not abandon voluntary overtime work for the time being because of the epidemic, but doctors are invited to register their intention to do so at a later date.

In response, the Human Resources Ministry accused the Chamber of trying to blackmail the cabinet and denied that there is a shortage of protective equipment.

“It is unprecedented that on the threshold of a pandemic breaking out, the leadership of the Chamber is attempting to blackmail the cabinet by depositing statements by doctors to give up their voluntary overtime work. This is unprecedented in the world. Is this what the doctors’ community wants? Now is a time for co-operation, not blackmail,” the statement said.

The ministry said proper protective equipment is available in ample quantities for doctors, nurses and skilled workers.

At the press conference, Chamber vice-president Rita Lenard stressed that the corps of doctors is aging, as many are older than 60, and are most vulnerable to health hazards.

“We are sending elderly endangered colleagues with little protective equipment, on an unfair salary, and with many hours of overtime to the frontline,” Lenard said.

Chamber secretary Tamas Sved warned that unless the epidemic is slowed down, the problem will be the lack of health care staff rather than that of medical equipment. (24.hu; infostart.hu; szakszerv.hu; hirado.hu; atv.hu)
12th March, 2020

Kasler prepares more facilities for quarantine

Authorities are designating wards in health institutions to accommodate persons placed in quarantine, Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler told hospital leaders in a Wednesday statement.

The intensive ward of the Koranyi Institute on the outskirts of Buda is ready to admit patients, in case of necessity, while 29 infectious disease wards are on standby around the country, he said.

If capacity is reached at the South Pest Central Hospital – which is treating those infected with the coronavirus, and where suspicious cases are quarantined, then quarantine units will be established in other hospitals, he added.

The Semmelweis medical university’s Kutvolgyi block not far from Buda’s Szell Kalman ter is also being prepared. (infostart.hu; propeller.hu; blikk.hu; origo.hu; magyarhang.org)
12th March, 2020

Pinter talks with Austrian minister

Interior Ministers Karl Nehammer of Austria and Sandor Pinter of Hungary spoke by telephone Tuesday evening about measures adopted and planned in the interest of halting the spread of the new coronavirus.

The two ministers informed one another about their checks and restrictions imposed on arrivals from Italy, and agreed to exchange information continuously. (infostart.hu; atv.hu; hirklikk.hu)
12th March, 2020

Blood donation restrictions announced

The National Blood Supply Service is introducing restrictions on blood donors due to fears of the coronavirus.

The Service has imposed a 30-day moratorium on accepting blood donations from anyone who has been outside Hungary since February 5.

Anyone who has been abroad in the past 30 days may not even enter areas where blood is donated.

If no symptoms or complaints of infection emerge 30 days after a trip abroad, then voluntary blood donors are again welcome.

The Service stressed that supplying health care institutions with blood is an ongoing task, as curing patients is in many cases impossible without such donations.

It encouraged everybody who feels healthy and is not affected by the above restrictions to donate blood in the near future. (infostart.hu; blikk.hu; hvg.hu; femcafe.hu; hirado.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; napi.hu)
12th March, 2020

MTVA sues Magyar Hang

State media manager MTVA is suing the weekly newspaper Magyar Hang, accusing it of creating panic by reporting that 12 MTVA staff members were being monitored by epidemiological experts.

Magyar Hang, a conservative weekly, reported on Tuesday, citing an MTVA statement, that an MTVA employee was taken away by paramedics after showing symptoms associated with the coronavirus.

MTVA does not dispute that, but objects to the weekly’s claim that medical staff are monitoring a further 12 MTVA staff members.

It accused Magyar Hang of lying and spreading panic in its article titled Coronavirus Suspicion at MTVA.

MTVA said the staff member in question tested negative for the virus. (24.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; magyarhang.org; origo.hu)
12th March, 2020

Origo editor claims ignorance of content in lawsuit

Budapest’s Second and Third District Court has terminated proceedings in a libel lawsuit brought by Momentum MEP Anna Donath launched against Origo because the website’s editor cannot say who wrote the offending article.

The article, published last summer, said a young woman had accused Donath of sexually assaulting her after the Sziget Festival.

The Capital Court of Appeals ordered the website to publish a correction.

Donath initiated a libel lawsuit, along with the lawsuit demanding a correction, against the website and this procedure was terminated by the court now because Origo editor-in-chief Laszlo Gabor in his testimony as a witness for the police claimed he does not know who wrote the discrediting article nor who had decided to publish it.

Donath expresses no doubt in her response that Gabor is telling the truth. “No clearer proof is needed: Origo is not only not a real press product, it does not even consider itself as such. It has degenerated to a “publication” where the editor-in-chief – who in fact regularly goes to Antal Rogan’s ministry for briefings on propaganda matters – claims that he does not know anything about the website he runs, and that half a year was not enough time for him to find out basic information about who is the author of the discrediting article.” (444.hu; merce.hu; media1.hu; nepszava.hu; 24.hu; hvg.hu)
12th March, 2020

Oman bans Hungarian poultry

Oman has banned the import of Hungarian poultry and related products from Hungary from March 3, due to the bird flu epidemic that broke out in Hungary some weeks ago.

Heat-treated products are exempt from the ban.

Oman joined China, Kuwait, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and the UAE, which had already banned Hungarian poultry imports.

Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Russia and Singapore have banned imports only from the affected regions of Hungary.

The virus was detected in a farm near Acs, Komarom-Esztergom county and a few days later in Letavertes, Hajdu-Bihar county. (agrarszektor.hu)
12th March, 2020

Fewer pigs farmed last year

The number of pigs farmed was down 8.3% year-on-year to 2.6 million on December 1, 2019, according to a summary by the Central Statistics Office.

The reduction is due to measures taken following outbreaks of the African swine flu and the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

The number of hens was 30.9 million, essentially the same as one year earlier.

The total number of farmed ducks had fallen by 8.1% to 4.5 million and the number of geese was down 12% to 1.2 million.

There was a 6.3% decline in the number of turkeys to 2.7 million.

On the other hand, the number of milk cows rose 2.2% to 412,000 while the total number of cattle reached 909,000. (ksh.hu; index.hu; napi.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
12th March, 2020

Workers’ hostel opens in Csongrad

Labour policy state secretary Sandor Bodo opened a new 80-bed workers’ hostel in Ujszentivan, Csongrad county on Wednesday.

The facility on the outskirts of Szeged has four units with three apartments in each. The Ft 371 million project received Ft 223 million in state subsidy.

Workers travel to Ujszentivan daily from Serbia via the Tiszasziget border station, said mayor Lazar Putnik of the village of 2,000.

The town of Mako and the Romanian border are also close, government commissioner Tunde Juhasz observed in explaining why this location was selected for the hostel. (magyarnemzet.hu)
12th March, 2020

Wizz Air CEO plans downsizing

Wizz Air is planning a significant downsizing in the coming quarter, according to an internal letter sent to employees by CEO Jozsef Varadi on Tuesday, Magyar Hang reports.

Capacities will be cut by at least 20% and dismissals are scheduled in several areas.

Varadi expressed hope that Wizz Air can work at full capacity in June, except in areas hit hard by the coronavirus.

Among executives a 17% cut has already been carried out, reducing their number from 46 to 38.

All students and interns are dismissed immediately and recruitment has been stopped.

Wizz Air is also cancelling bonuses and is allowing employees to go on unpaid leave.

The airline is renegotiating its contracts with suppliers and would like to extend payment deadlines.

The company may also ask for a delay in payments for the new aircraft it has ordered.

Varadi said Wizz Air has strong liquidity due to its high amount of cash reserves, adding that this positions the airline to be a winner in the recovery following the crisis.

Experiences of the September 11, 2001 and Sars crises indicate that a difficult period can be expected for six months, he added. (magyarhang.org; napi.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu)
12th March, 2020

Banks’ profits up 8.5% in 2019

The combined net profit of Hungary’s banks came to Ft 698 billion last year, up by 8.5% from Ft 644 billion in 2018, the MNB announced on Wednesday.

Net interest totalled Ft 95 billion, up by 8%, while net fees reached Ft 142 billion, a 10.9% increase.

The return on equity fell to 13.1% from 13.4% reached in the previous year, while the return on assets dropped from 1.5% to 1.4%.

The costs-to-income ratio grew from 63.7% to 64.7%.

Total assets in the banking sector expanded by 18.2% to Ft 49.8 trillion.

Large banks realised 93.1% of the total combined profits, while medium and small banks, which have 17.7% of the consolidated total assets, made the remaining 6.9%.

Hungarian-owned banks control 59.5% of the sector’s total assets, up from 55.4% in 2018. (portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu)
12th March, 2020

Investment funds lose on crises

The coronavirus crisis combined with the oil price war has hit retail investment funds hard, Portfolio reports.

Among them is OTP Supra, the largest hedge fund available to household investment portfolios. The fund lost 14% of its value from Friday to Monday, when stock markets plummeted worldwide.

On the positive side, derivative fund Hold HTM led the list of winners over the three-day period, with a 3.8% gain, followed by OTP Sigma with 2.5% and Equilor Optimus with 2.1%. (portfolio.hu)
12th March, 2020

Mercedes issues Ft 40bn in bonds

Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary has successfully issued Ft 40.3 billion in a seven-year bond at an auction in the frame of the MNB’s bonds for growth programme, the subsidiary of the German carmaker announced on Wednesday.

The bond paying fixed annual interest of 1.5% matures on March 16, 2027.

The MNB requires at least a B+ rating from companies participating in its programme, and Mercedes has an A credit rating.

The average yield on the bond was 1.38%, the lowest to date among bonds issued in the programme. (portfolio.hu)
12th March, 2020

MNB shuts down credit firms

The MNB has withdrawn the operating licences of Credit Unio Penzugyi and Pannon Star Capital Penzugyi because the credit providing companies repeatedly failed to provide the required data to MNB, the financial supervisory announced on Wednesday.

The MNB has rejected a request from Pannon Star to supply the information by a later date.

The MNB has also ordered the liquidation of these companies and appointed the state firm Penzugyi Stabilitasi es Felszamolo as their receiver. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; origo.hu)
12th March, 2020

Trading in Masterplast suspended

The Budapest Stock Exchange suspended trading in Masterplast shares on Wednesday until the end of trading on Thursday, because the construction materials manufacturer is going to make an announcement expected to influence the value of its shares.

Trading in the shares may resume after the announcement is made.

The share price dropped by 4.8% before the suspension on Wednesday, Portfolio notes. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu)
12th March, 2020

Sigyn captain trial begins on April 30

Ukrainian Yuri Chaplinsky pleaded innocent in the matter of the ship accident last May which claimed 28 fatalities, at a preliminary hearing at Pest Central District Court on Wednesday.

Prosecutors have charged Chaplinsky with reckless endangerment resulting in mass disaster and failure to provide help to passengers of the stricken sightseeing boat Hableany.

Had he pleaded guilty, and waived his right to a trial, the defendant would have been imprisoned for nine years.

With a view to the coronavirus threat, the judge herded journalists into another room, where they followed the proceedings on a screen.

This was the first time that the 64-year-old Chaplinsky did not cover his face in public, although he refused to allow the media to take photographs of him.

Prosecutors said that the captain did not concentrate on steering his ship the Viking Sigyn on the Danube near Margit Bridge for five minutes last May 29, and failed to notice the presence of the smaller Hableany, did not reduce the speed of his ship and did not initiate radio contact, nor send emergency signals.

The defendant said he is being treated for a kidney problem. He went for an examination on March 6 and will undergo more examinations on March 25.

The trial begins on April 30. (index.hu; 24.hu; hirado.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; hirtv.hu)
12th March, 2020

Book, theatre, tennis events postponed

The 27th Budapest International Book Festival and the Seventh Madach International Theatre Meeting have been postponed to a later date after the cabinet banned indoor events attended by more than 100 people and outdoor events visited by more than 500 people.

The Hungarian Book Publishers and Distributors Association said a detailed information bulletin will be sent out to every exhibitor about a new date for the festival.

The Madach International Theatre Meeting scheduled for April 8 to May 17 is also put off to a later date, the National Theatre announced.

The International Tennis Federation has postponed the Fed Cup playoffs and final, scheduled to take place in Budapest on April 14-29, after the cabinet banned all indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. (magyarhirlap.hu; hvg.hu; nepszava.hu; 24.hu)

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