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18th June, 2020

Emergency task force holds last press conference

As the state of emergency ends, the emergency task force held its last daily press conference on Wednesday.

However, the group will continue to operate in the background.

National chief medical officer Cecilia Muller, Col. Tibor Lakatos and Lt. Col. Robert Kiss said goodbye by summarising the last 113 days of the task force.

It was announced that two patients had died of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising the total to date to 567.

One new case was discovered, the 4,078th to date. As 2,547 have recovered, the number of active infections is 964.

In sum, there are 41 infected and six dead per 100,000 inhabitants.

Overall, 39% of the active infected, 60% of deaths, and 48% of the recovered were from Budapest. Of those infected to date, 57% were women, and 43% men.

The authorities said 337 active cases are from Budapest, followed by Zala county with 151, Komarom-Esztergom with 128, Pest county 128, and Fejer county with 127 cases.

There are no active infections in Baranya, Bacs-Kiskun, Heves, Somogy and Tolna counties.

The most casualties were from Budapest, with 340 and Pest county, with 93 fatalities.

Typically, elderly people with chronic illness died, according to Muller. Only 24 people died without another disease present.

Some 25% of those infected were aged 65-79, and 20% over the age of 80.

There were 93 “imported” cases in Hungary, accounting for only 2% of all infections.

Muller recalled that the first death in Hungary was reported on March 15.

Muller then thanked everyone, including the public, and those working in all areas of health care, nursing homes, kindergartens, schools, the emergency task force and supporters. (index.hu; 24.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; 444.hu; nepszava.hu; origo.hu)
18th June, 2020

Parking is still free on city streets

Parking remains free in all cities across Hungary until July 1, despite the end of the state of emergency, as imposed by a government decree.

Responding to a written query from Democratic Coalition MP Lajos Olah, Prime Minister’s Office state secretary Balazs Orban said the decree remains in force because the government wants to ensure adequate preparation time for both citizens and parking system operators.

He said the government had made parking free throughout the country in order to reduce the spread of the epidemic, by reducing contact among people. This has proved to be effective, and the state of emergency can now be lifted, he added. (infostart.hu; index.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu; nepszava.hu)
18th June, 2020

Penalising fake news is not unconstitutional

Punishing the spreading of fake news during an epidemic is not unconstitutional, provided that the perpetrator knew that the news was false at the time of the crime, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.

At the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, Parliament adopted an amendment to the criminal code, effective from March 31, according to which the dissemination of fake news is punishable by a stricter sanction during a state of emergency.

A complaint submitted to the Court argued that this regulation unnecessarily and disproportionately restricts freedom of speech, as the crime is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

The petitioner also objected that a criminal sanction could be imposed on someone who claims something in good faith.

The Court concluded that the spreading of fake news is a criminal act only if the perpetrator knew that the information was false and may thus hinder the protective measures during a state of emergency.

However, the disseminator cannot be held criminally liable if the report proves to be false only later. (magyarnemzet.hu; 24.hu; hvg.hu; magyarhang.org; 444.hu origo.hu; napi.hu)
18th June, 2020

Socialists initiate poll on fireworks

The Socialists are asking Budapest residents to vote on whether they want a gigantic fireworks display on August 20 or the renovation of the Chain Bridge.

The party’s Budapest chapter president Zsolt Molnar told an online press conference that plastic “ballot boxes” will be placed in public areas of Budapest in the coming weeks, where people can vote for rockets or bridge renovations by throwing in plastic caps.

It is also possible to support the proposal on the party’s website that the Ft 8 billion planned to be spent on this year’s August 20 celebrations be given to the city for the renovation of the Chain Bridge.

According to Molnar, the Fidesz government is punishing local councils, who were in opposition and won the municipal elections last year, especially Budapest.

He added that the expected cost of this year’s event is five times the price of last year’s fireworks. (24.hu; index.hu)
18th June, 2020

Gov’t creates magazine for pensioners

A 16-page free magazine, entitled Jokor (“Good Times”) is being delivered to two million pensioners nationwide.

The tabloid with predominantly Fidesz content is officially published by the State Treasury, and is aimed at elderly readers, 444 writes.

It includes a greeting from Prime Minister Orban, interviews with cabinet ministers, advice from health authorities and a fish soup recipe.

The publication will appear in retirees’ mailboxes every quarter. (444.hu; 24.hu)
18th June, 2020

Scientists object to relocation of museum

Some 34 internationally recognised Hungarian academics have protested in an open letter against the relocation of the Hungarian Museum of Natural History from Budapest to Debrecen, 200 kilometres from the capital.

In the letter addressed to scientists and citizens of Debrecen, they write that the government does not consider the fact that expertise developed over decades will be permanently lost due to the move.

They warn that specialists cannot be replaced from one year to the next, and not even for decades.

Moreover, such a move would inevitably cause irreparable damage to the collection of millions of items, they warn.

The researchers also point out that field trips will be hindered, as it is much more difficult for school groups to get to Debrecen.

The scientists want to hear what the people of Debrecen have to say on the matter. They ask “would anyone really be proud of the opening of a “stolen” museum, no matter how cutting-edge the new building?”

Innovation and Technology Minister Laszlo Palkovics announced last week that he had approved the government’s ten-year development concept planned for Debrecen, which includes the construction of a new Museum of Natural History. (hvg.hu; 24.hu; index.hu)
18th June, 2020

Parragh would revise KATA tax

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is suggesting that the government revise the regulation of the small business flat tax KATA, chamber president Laszlo Parragh told Magyar Nemzet in an interview.

Parragh would like to stop employers using contracted workers who make use of the KATA option as a loophole for avoiding proper employment.

The KATA scheme helps small businesses with a simple tax payment structure, but also creates opportunities for abuse, he argued.

He said his suggested changes aim to prevent concealed employment but do not hurt honest KATA payers.

Parragh proposed that an extra tax of up to 40% be charged on transactions between a KATA company and its business partner exceeding an annual Ft 3 million.

That would eliminate the tax advantage of hidden employment against formal employment, Parragh said.

A second suggestion is to increase the monthly Ft 50,000 flat tax to Ft 65,000 if the total annual revenue of the KATA business exceeds Ft 6 million.

He said any changes could not take effect before January 1, 2021.

The chamber urges the tax authority NAV to increase the number of targeted audits aiming at discovering concealed employment by using its database. (magyarnemzet.hu; portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu)
18th June, 2020

MNB provides Ft 70bn to banks again

Similarly to the last three weeks, the MNB provided Ft 70 billion to commercial banks at its weekly repo tender on Wednesday.

Banks did not file any bids for the three-, six- and 12-month maturities. Bids for Ft 40 billion of the three-year maturity tender were rejected by the MNB.

The MNB accepted Ft 70 billion of bids totalling Ft 115.5 billion for the five-year maturity.

Since May 20, the central bank only accepts bids on the five-year maturity. The MNB charges an annual 0.9% on these loans.

The banks use this credit to buy state bonds at auctions on Thursdays. (portfolio.hu)
18th June, 2020

Prescription drug sales down in April

After peaking in March, sales of prescription drugs plummeted by 27.8% to Ft 42.7 billion in April, indicating that March consumption was boosted by early purchases caused by the outbreak of the epidemic, consultancy Hiflylabs found.

Compared to a year earlier, sales were down by 3.4% in April.

However, sales of prescription drugs were up by 11.7%, year-on-year, in the first four months.

The average price of these drugs went up by 1.8% from a year earlier.

In April, patients purchased prescription drugs for an average of Ft 4,370. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu)
18th June, 2020

Doktor24 plans series of acquisitions

Doktor24 plans to use €10 million of fresh capital to become one of the largest private healthcare companies in Hungary, the service provider announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

Doktor24 received the funding in March from Ananda Impact Ventures – one of Europe’s largest investors in the field – and from Luxembourg-based venture capital fund V4C, a specialist in East European deals.

Doktor24 has the capacity to become the market leader, head of V4C Bill Watson said in a video message.

Doktor24 CEO Robert Lanz highlighted that Doktor24 is using the capital injection to build a 3,000m2 private hospital in the Budapest One office building complex.

The company has completed two acquisitions recently, buying the Svabhegy Children’s Health Institute and the Castle Park Clinic.

Doktor24 maintains its Ft 2.5 billion fixed capital investment target for this year, which programme also receives a Ft 300 million state subsidy.

Six Hungarians own the majority of shares in Doktor24, one of them the Gyurcsany-era economy minister Janos Koka.

Doktor24 is planning further acquisitions this year.

Demand, doctors and capital are gravitating towards the largest private health care providers, Koka said, adding that ultimately only three or four companies will be in competition. (portfolio.hu; novekedes.hu)
18th June, 2020

BHS Trans building logistics centre in Debrecen

BHS Trans is erecting a 10,000m2 storage facility in Debrecen as part of its Ft 7.6 billion logistics centre programme, the company announced on Wednesday.

BHS Trans is building logistics centres in four locations with a total area of 22,000m2 and an additional 2,000m2 of office space, creating 165 jobs, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto said at the foundation stone laying ceremony.

The government provides Ft 3.4 billion state aid in cash to these projects, he added.

Hungarian-owned companies provide the soul of the Hungarian economy, he said, adding that the government supports job creating projects and companies which invest in fixed capital.

Debrecen mayor Laszlo Papp recalled that the development of the southern industrial area, which hosts the BHS Trans logistics centre, started only four years ago and 1,200 jobs are being created in the factories under construction or already operating there. (origo.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
18th June, 2020

Al Habtoor sells Rumbach Centre

Dubai-based investor Al Habtoor has sold its Rumbach Centre office building to a German pension fund represented by Eastern Europe property manager Galcap Europe, Portfolio reports.

The transaction was facilitated by property consultancy Colliers Magyarorszag.

The building near Deak ter in Budapest’s Seventh District with 7,600m2 of office space and parking for 72 vehicles was opened in 1992.

It has only one tenant, the Budai Kozlekedesi Ugyfelkapcsolatok, which handles customer relations for the Budapest transport centre BKK.

The Rumbach Centre generates a secure cash flow for its owners and has a high potential for growth due to its very moderate current rental rates, said CEO Marco Kohla of Galcap Europe.

He added that this investment fits perfectly into the GalCap portfolio, as the firm also manages the Merkur Palace and Central Udvar office buildings in Budapest. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; novekedes.hu)
18th June, 2020

Former Szechenyi Bank executives detained

After a long investigation, police detained several former executives of Szechenyi Bank in raids carried out on Tuesday, Index learned from relatives of the affected persons.

Consultants and participants connected with a dubious capital increase at the bank were also taken into custody.

The financial supervisory revoked Szechenyi Bank’s licence on December 5, 2014 and ordered its closure not long after the state injected capital into it.

The MNB also reported suspected crime concerning Istvan Torocskei, who was the majority owner of the bank and the head of the state debt manager AKK at the time.

Budapest prosecutors raided 20 locations, seized documents, questioned 19 persons as suspects and detained seven.

The authority suspects that a gang of criminals led by Torocskei and his wife stole money out of the bank causing more than Ft 6 billion damage.

The gang had the bank extend credit to certain companies, which then transferred the majority of the sums via other participants to a firm owned by Torocskei without any intention of repaying it.

The authority recommends the arrests of two men and one woman, as well as continued police custody for five men and one woman. (index.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu)
18th June, 2020

MNB fines banks due to suspicious transactions

The MNB has fined six banks a combined total of Ft 124.2 million for violating rules on the prevention of money laundering and financing terrorism, the financial authority announced on Wednesday.

In an examination of the activities of the banks since January 1, 2018, the MNB found that the lenders did not always report suspicious transactions to the authority, several of them did not operate their internal control and information systems properly, and did not have the necessary management approvals for some significant transactions.

Magnet Bank has to pay a Ft 48.2 million fine, Unicredit Bank Ft 20 million, Erste Bank and Sberbank each Ft 19 million, OTP Ft 11 million and K&H Ft 7 million. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; origo.hu; nepszava.hu)
18th June, 2020

Man dies during TEK procedure

A suspect died in Salgotarjan during a police operation by the Counterterrorist unit TEK on Wednesday morning.

The unit wanted to arrest a 55-year-old Hungarian man suspected of having a firearm.

According to the TEK statement, the suspect lost consciousness during the operation.

An on-site rescue team immediately tried to resuscitate him, to no avail.

The TEK told HVG that the suspect did not attack the police, the suspect was not shot by the police, and that the suspect did not have a firearm.

The investigation continues with the involvement of forensic experts.

The Central Prosecutor’s Office said no police negligence occurred in the case, based on the data available so far.

They also added that nothing justifies the initiation of a prosecution. (hvg.hu; index.hu; 24.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
18th June, 2020

Budapest to host European Super Cup

Budapest’s Puskas Arena will host the UEFA Super Cup final on September 24, European football’s governing body announced yesterday.

The match pits the winners of the Champions League tournament against the Europa League winner. (hvg.hu)

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