FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a conference in Budapest, Hungary, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday lifted some restrictions outside Budapest imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak, saying shops and restaurant terraces will be allowed to reopen without time limits.
Existing restrictions will continue for now in the capital, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections. Those include a 3 p.m. closure of shops other than those selling food or medicines.
A phased reopening is the government’s strategy to head off deeper and more lasting harm to the economy, which is expected to shrink by about 4% this year based on a Reuters survey.
“The first part of (our) defence measures has ended,” Orban said in a video posted on his Facebook page, adding the health care system was prepared to handle a period of mass infections as Hungary had ramped up its stock of protective gear.
“Today, we no longer need to worry that anyone will be left without care. We can gradually restart life in Hungary.”
As of Wednesday, Hungary reported 300 deaths among a total of 2,727 cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious lung disease caused by the new coronavirus. Some 1,347 of the infections were in Budapest.
Orban said that outside the capital open-air swimming pools will also be permitted to reopen but the wearing of masks or face-coverings would remain mandatory in shops and on public transport.
He said any further loosening of restrictions would be reviewed every two weeks.
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Mark Heinrich