The brief history of the month (April 2020)

by Kevin | Last Updated: April 20, 2020

Profiteering butcher fined

The customer protection authority has fined a butcher at Budapest’s Lehel Square indoor market HUF 300,000 for charging “stellar prices” for chicken products. Proceedings began after photos of the vendor’s price tags were published on social media and created a public uproar in mid-March. Customer protection agents have been monitoring markets to avoid vendors “abusing opportunities offered by a higher demand and by epidemic-related concerns of buyers”. Spot checks have been made on 700 shops, with proceedings against 70 for violating price regulations.


The NationNal Association of Animal Protection warns of serious food shortages at animal shelters. The country’s 140 shelters house 8-10,000 animals

Cloud over airport

Liszt Ferenc International Airport expects to lose some its current 153 destinations and will cancel several planned developments, the head of operator Budapest Airport, Rolf Schnitzler, has said. On April 1 the airport handled 521 passengers and had 20 flight take-offs, as opposed to 45,000 passengers and 154 departures on the same day in 2019. By the end of April, the airport will have lost 2.5 million seats of its total capacity, Schnitzler said. However, its finances were stable and it would stay open, and was planning to continue planned developments after the coronavirus crisis was over. The CEO said airport senior management has offered over EUR 60,000 from their salaries to set up a solidarity fund to help troubled employees.

Deficit target revised

Hungary now targets its 2020 budget deficit, calculated according to the European Union’s accrual-based accounting standards, at 2.9 percent of GDP, a report from the Central Statistical Office to Eurostat indicates. Finance Minister Mihály Varga says Hungary will not be able to achieve its target of 1 percent of GDP this year due to the impact of novel coronavirus. But the shortfall would likely be kept to below the 3 percent threshold set under the EU’s Maastricht criteria. The budget had more than HUF 400 billion in reserves, leaving sufficient room to manage a 3 percent deficit, Varga said. If the economy needed to be restarted, the deficit could be higher.

Jobs not aid: survey

Eighty percent of respondents in a Szazadveg survey have said they expect the government to save their jobs rather than provide welfare benefits. The pollster said only 18 percent held the opposite view. “Four-fifths of the population support job-protection measures, clearly indicating that Hungarians are aware of the seriousness of the situation, but they want solutions that ensure the prosperity and wellbeing of families in the long run,” the company said. According to the survey, Hungarians support the government’s policies launched in 2010, “aimed at creating jobs and increasing the country’s room for economic manoeuvre”.

Fined for coughing

A local court in Szombathely has fined two men HUF 200,000 each for deliberately coughing in the faces of people outside a pharmacy and threatening them with novel coronavirus. The men, a Hungarian and a Ukrainian, shouted obscenities and threats, demonstrating extremely anti-social behaviour that caused shock and generated fear. The court deemed it as an aggravating circumstance that the state of emergency connected to the epidemic was already in force.

#World Autism Awareness day marked in Budapest

Masks’ neighbourly help

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó has said the government is helping out Hungarian communities over the border by sending 600,000 face masks and tens of thousands of items of protective clothing, equipment and coronavirus tests. He said Hungary can do so thanks to its ties to China and its own production capacities. Hungary had bought 30 million face masks from China and would soon be producing 2,800,000 masks a month itself. Szijjártó said almost all Hungarian communities abroad have asked the government for help, with some hospitals stretched to the full. “It’s our duty to protect the health and lives of Hungarians,” he said. Large shipments would also arrive from China in the next few weeks.

Computer tackles virus

A Hungarian supercomputer is being used as part of Stanford University’s research into the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The SuperDome computer is contributing to the folding@home international project, preparing simulations to better understand the workings of enzymes breaking down proteins within the virus, and to develop an inhibitor. SuperDome’s capacity is also accessible to Hungarian scientists researching the virus.

#Zebra born in Nyíregyháza Zoo. The Zoo offers discounted supporting tickets, which will be valid for a year and can be used anytime once they reopen

Washington diplomat to go

Lászlo Szabó, Hungary’s Ambassador to Washington, DC, will leave to join the private sector. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Szabó has played a key role in strengthening Hungarian-US relations since his appointment in summer 2017. Hungary has 1500 US businesses employing 100,000 local workers, and the US is the largest non-European investor in Hungary. Szabó is a physician with years of experience working for multinational drug makers around the world.

Temperature record low

A daily record-low temperature was reported on April 2, the national weather service says. The previous record for April 2 was minus 8.6 degrees Celsius in Zabar, northern Hungary, in 2005. This year, even lower was reported at eight measuring stations, with the new daily record minus 11.3 Celsius in Nyírlugos, eastern Hungary.

Shorter exams proposed

The government’s education taskforce has proposed simplifying secondary school final exams this year to written tests only because of the coronavirus. Normally the exams also involve an oral component. State Secretary Zoltan Maruzsa, the head of the body, said final exams must meet the usual standards while the epidemic must also be taken into account. Exams should be organised so that students sit them in the shortest possible time and with the least personal contact. No more than ten students should take exams in the same classroom at any one time so that a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained between them. Exams are scheduled to start on May 4. Maruzsa proposed that students not planning to enter higher education take their secondary school exams later.

#Truck ignoring low clearance signs gets stuck in an underpass in district X

Crisis ‘underestimated’

The government’s stimulus package is insufficient to offset the economic impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic and underestimates the seriousness of the crisis, a Párbeszéd MP says. Despite the European Union suspending its deficit limits, the government and the central bank have been reluctant to expand their coronavirus rescue packages and are more intent on simply reallocating existing funds, Tamás Mellár asserts. He said the “government’s historic bailout measures” said to be worth 18-20 percent of GDP “so far only amount to half of that target”. Mellár accused the government of ignoring “the coming social crisis”, referring to workers who have lost their jobs, struggling businesses and people in extreme poverty. These sectors of society need measures such as increased family benefits, a higher minimum pension and higher unemployment benefits, he said.

Horse, music ‘exclusivity’

The husbandry of Lipizzaner horses and Hungarian string music traditions have been submitted for the title of intangible world cultural heritage. The submissions will be evaluated in December 2021, the Szentendre Open-Air Museum, which oversees Hungarian applications, says. The husbandry of Lipizzaners, first bred under the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, has been submitted by Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the countries currently breeding them, the museum said. Hungarian string folk music, the cornerstone of Hungarian musical traditions for centuries, was submitted by Hungary alone. Traditional string music has been strengthened by the dance house movement starting in the 1970s and by accredited education, and continues to be a “lifestyle for folk musicians in Hungary”, according to the museum.

‘Minor’ fire at N-plant

Employees of the Paks power plant put out a minor fire at the nuclear facility’s 4th block, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority has said. The fire broke out at a switchboard and did not impact operations or nuclear security systems, the authority said.