Hungary to close borders to foreigners next week to curb coronavirus infections

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will close its borders to foreigners from Sept. 1 to curb a rise in coronavirus infections and Hungarians returning from abroad will have to go into quarantine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s cabinet chief said on Friday.

Gergely Gulyas said Hungarian citizens could leave the 14-day quarantine only if they provided two negative COVID tests.

Exceptions for the ban on entry for foreigners would apply to military convoys and for humanitarian transit, as well as business or diplomatic travel.

The government was considering various rules on how fans could be allowed to attend the UEFA Super Cup match between Bayern Munich and Sevilla in Budapest on Sept. 24, Gulyas added.

“The number of infections has increased ... and most of these originate from abroad,” Gulyas told a news conference.

He said the restrictions were needed to allow the school-year to start next week, and protect people as well as the economy.

On Friday, Hungary recorded 132 new infections, the highest daily number since the peak of the pandemic. Hungary has had a total of 5,511 coronavirus cases and 614 deaths.

Nationalist Orban, who has been in power since 2010, faces one of the biggest challenges of his rule as the Hungarian economy plunged by an annual 13.6% in the second quarter. Hungary eased lockdown measures in May.

“We would not like to reintroduce lockdown measures,” Gulyas said.

Budapest is due to host the match between Champions League winners Bayern and Europa League winners Sevilla next month.

All games in the recent final stages of those competitions were played behind closed doors, but UEFA’s executive committee ruled that up to 30% of the 67,215 capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest can be taken by fans.

Gulyas said UEFA was planning to grant access to the game for 3,000 fans of both Bayern and Sevilla. One possibility was that fans would have to produce two negative tests at the airport, would be transported directly to the stadium and back to the airport after the game.

He said the government has not decided yet about the rules, and was also in talks with UEFA about it.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Toby Chopra and Keith Weir