‘Goodbye, masks’: Hungary’s Orban says his country’s beaten third wave of Covid-19

The Hungarian prime minister has said his nation has made significant progress against the coronavirus, and announced that there would be a relaxation of restrictions, including the need for the wearing of masks in public.

Speaking to state radio on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that most Covid-19 restrictions, including a night-time curfew, would be removed this weekend, when the country will have vaccinated its five-millionth citizen.

“This means we have defeated the third wave of the pandemic,” Orban said, adding that it was time to say “goodbye to masks” in public places. 

He stated that, in addition, events in closed spaces would be open to those who had been inoculated, and gatherings of up to 500 people could be held in the open air. 

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Hungary is the only country in the European Union to have approved and used the vaccines developed in Russia and China, against the will of Brussels. This has allowed Budapest to inoculate more people than the EU average, with around 50% of the country’s 10 million population having already had at least one shot. In comparison, Brussels said on Thursday that only 40% of the EU adult population had been vaccinated.

Budapest has already opened many sectors of its service industry, including hotels, restaurants, spas, theaters, movie theaters, gyms, and sports venues, after Covid-19 infections fell from their peak in March.

The country’s economy shrank by 5% in 2020 as a result of lengthy lockdowns and pandemic disruption, but the government is projecting a 4.3% growth in 2021.

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