At a press conference held after the Sunday Budapest meeting of the Operational Corps responsible for the containment of the coronavirus infection, the head of the corps said the Operational Corps recommends the introduction of a visiting ban to hospitals and old people’s homes.

Tibor Lakatos added that the Operational Corps is asking schools to delay school trips if possible.

He said the Ministry of Human Capacities issued an appeal to the heads of inpatient institutions in which – due to the rise in the number of possible coronavirus cases – they are asking health care workers to suspend or delay their travels abroad.

The number of infected persons has increased in the whole of Central Europe, he said, adding that in Hungary there are still only isolated, individual cases; the goal is to prevent group infections.

Today in Hungary, there are 7 novel coronavirus patients, including 4 Iranians, 1 British national and 2 Hungarians. The first two infected persons are two Iranian university students; one of them is a pharmacology student, while the other one studies at Szent István University. The third patient is a British man who lives in Debrecen and frequently travelled to Milan. The fourth person was found as part of the contact searches; she is the Iranian pharmacology student’s girlfriend. The fifth patient is a 70-year-old, gravely ill Hungarian man. The sixth infected person is a 22-year-old Iranian man who attended a birthday party together with the pharmacology student first diagnosed with the virus in Hungary. The seventh patient is the British man’s 59-year-old Hungarian wife.

According to the data of the portal, in addition to the seven infected persons, another 67 persons are in quarantine, while the accredited laboratory has tested 362 samples.

Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller told the press that 6 of the 7 infected persons were being treated in the Szent László Hospital in Budapest, while the British man was in the Kenézy Gyula Hospital in Debrecen. Their condition is satisfactory, only the 70-year-old Hungarian man who has multiple medical conditions is in a poor state of health; he is being treated in the intensive care unit. There are 54 persons quarantined in the Szent László Hospital; the students and the accompanying adults who returned from Italy earlier have been released.

Tamás Schanda, the Parliamentary and Strategic State Secretary of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology highlighted that they had implemented tightened consumer protection checks nation-wide in order to filter out merchants seeking to make unfair profits by exploiting people worried about the coronavirus threat as well as those who want to deceive people by selling goods of inferior quality. They are having hand sanitisers and other disinfectants tested in laboratories, while they are continuously monitoring the prices of products such as non-perishable foods, disinfectants and household hygiene paper products. He stressed that the supply of goods is continuous; there is no cause for panic.

The percentage of students among the infected clearly shows that there is a need for discipline on the part of higher education institutions and students, the State Secretary said. They are asking universities to call upon students both in Hungarian and in English to comply with the applicable health and safety regulations, and to inform them that non-compliance with disease control measures could constitute a crime.

Tamás Menczer, Minister of State for Communication and Hungary’s International Perception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade highlighted that at present 7 Hungarians are in quarantine in 4 countries around the world: one truck driver in Italy, one person in Germany, 3 persons in Japan, one of whom is infected, and two in China.

He stressed that this is an epidemic, and so Hungarian citizens staying or travelling abroad must consider the possibility of being affected by measures implemented by the given foreign country. Therefore, he called upon those planning to travel abroad to register with the Consular Services.

The coronavirus is now affecting 100 countries around the world; it is present in 43 countries in Europe and 26 countries in the European Union. It clearly demonstrates the dynamic spread of the virus that between 5 and 7 March, the number of patients in Italy increased by 53 per cent, in South Korea by 15 per cent and in Iran by more than 50 per cent, he pointed out.

Regarding the situation in Italy, he said restrictions had been introduced in Lombardy and 14 provinces. This is not quarantine, however; goods flows are not being restricted.

He also said on board the cruiser ship Costa Fortuna that departed from Singapore, there are 4 Hungarian passengers and 8 members of the crew are also Hungarian. No virus infection has been identified on the cruiser ship.

He announced that in Vietnam quarantine had been imposed in a place in the vicinity of the Hungarian embassy. With regard to this, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has ordered closure of the foreign representation and the suspension of customer services.

Tibor Lakatos also mentioned that on Saturday two Iranians refused to cooperate, and the police had to be called in to the hospital to prevent them from leaving the institution and harming physicians and nurses.

He said 54,000 prisoners had been released from prisons in Iran; therefore, they are also monitoring migration flows originating from there. At airports, 6,848 checks have been carried out, while at road border crossing points another 427.

He highlighted that in institutions which are especially important for the national economy, specific additional measures had been identified to curb infection. These measures have also been extended to ministries and Parliament, he added.

He drew attention to the fact that while some local governments are taking measures within their own competence, the containment of the coronavirus is a state responsibility, and therefore it is particularly important that local governments fully cooperate with the Operational Corps.

In answer to a journalist’s question, he said at this point in time the Operational Corps’ position is that, in the case of events attracting large numbers of people, in every instance it is the organiser’s responsibility to decide whether to go ahead with the given event or not.