Hungary to tighten border crossing as of Sept. 1 to curb spread of coronavirus

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will tighten border crossing rules from Sept. 1 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of new infections is rising in neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban takes part in the first face-to-face European Union summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

“As the school year starts, we will no longer be able to work with the border crossing system that was used during the summer,” Orban said.

Under current regulations, those returning from countries with higher infection rates need to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they produce two negative virus tests.

However, Croatia, a popular holiday destination for Hungarians, is still listed as “green”, which means no special rules apply. On Thursday it registered 255 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 7,329.

Orban did not provide details about the new restrictions.

As of Friday, Hungary had reported 5,046 coronavirus cases, with 609 deaths.

Orban, a nationalist who has been in power for more than a decade, also said his government would draft a two-year plan to boost the economy by the middle of next month, after a deeper-than-expected annual 13.6% plunge in second-quarter economic output.

The government’s official forecast still sees the economy contracting by 3% this year. However, Finance Minister Mihaly Varga flagged last month that the country’s economy could shrink by around 5%.

That was still before the dismal second-quarter GDP data was released.

Orban did not provide a fresh projection for this year’s economic outlook on Friday.

Reporting by Anita Komuves; Editing by Tom Hogue and Alex Richardson