Hungary introduces special legal order over coronavirus

Hungary declared a state of emergency in the entire country due to the coronavirus, Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás announced at the daily press conference of the Hungarian government’s coronavirus task force.

The state of emergency (technically, “state of danger”) is a so-called special legal order defined in the Fundamental Law of Hungary which allows the government to introduce a number of extraordinary measures by decree and suspend the application of certain laws in order to mitigate a natural or industrial disaster. It remains in effect for fifteen days unless Parliament authorises the government to extend it. 

The special legal order allows the government to halt air traffic or public transportation, order quarantines in certain areas (or even evacuations), restrict usage of public spaces, or even prescribe civil defence obligations or draw companies under temporary state control. (Once again, these are measures permitted by the state of danger, not measures that were announced). Once the state of danger ends, the specially authorised government decrees lose their effect as well.

Extraordinary measures announced by the Chief of Staff:

  • No entry into Hungary from Italy, China, South Korea, and Iran, except for Hungarian citizens who will automatically be quarantined.
  • Restrictions will apply at the Slovenian and Austrian border as well,
  • False statements concerning the virus will be sanctioned, just like the violation of quarantine orders,
  • Universities will only have online classes,
  • Events in enclosed spaces with more than 100 in attendance banned, outdoors events with more than 500 people banned as well,
  • No school trips abroad are allowed.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás told public media that the coronavirus response has to be taken to the next level in order to avoid community spread of the virus, which is why the coronavirus task force recommended the government to declare a state of emergency.

Gulyás said that the state of emergency makes it possible, if necessary, to order house quarantines and to close the borders – in agreement with Austria – before people arriving from Italy. Hungarians could of course return to the country in such a situation, but they would automatically be quarantined, Gulyás explained.

This special legal order had been employed before, he added, but only in areas affected by severe floods, never in the entire country.