This article was first published in CEE Legal Matters.
After a few weeks in which European travel restrictions were eased, the Hungarian government has adopted new rules applicable to travellers coming to Hungary. The new rules are applicable to private travellers. Freight traffic is exempt. So, must holiday bookings and business trips be put on hold yet again?
The answer depends on the country the traveller is coming from, as the new rules establish a classification system for countries based on the severity of its pandemic. Countries are assigned colour labels – green, yellow and red – with green being the least severe and red being the most severe.
1. Restrictions for Hungarian citizens and non-Hungarian citizens having permanent residence in Hungary
Travellers coming from a green country face no restrictions.
Travellers coming from a yellow or red country must undergo a COVID test when entering Hungary. If the test results are positive, the traveller must stay under officially set or supervised home quarantine. If the test results are negative, the traveller must stay under supervised home quarantine for 14 days unless they have two consecutive negative tests (taken 48 hours apart within five days prior to entering Hungary).
2. Restrictions for non-Hungarian citizens
Travellers coming from a green country face no restrictions. However, if COVID symptoms are experienced within 14 days after entering Hungary, they must stay at their accommodation and inform the pandemic authorities.
Travellers coming from a yellow country must undertake a COVID test when entering Hungary. If the test results are positive, they may not enter Hungary. If negative, they may enter Hungary but must stay under officially set or supervised home quarantine unless they have two consecutive negative tests (taken 48 hours apart within five days prior to entering Hungary).
Travellers coming from a red country may not enter Hungary.
For the purpose of transit, travellers may enter Hungary if they undergo a COVID test and the test results are negative. Transit travellers must leave the country within 24 hours.
4. Leniency application and business trips
Under the general rules, the police may accept leniency applications if certain circumstances allow for such special appreciation, e.g. participation in a court procedure, family reasons, etc.
The new rules also left some room for business travel among joint ventures. The restrictions do not apply to green countries anyways. However, the restrictions are also waived in the case of yellow countries if the traveller adequately substantiates the business reason of the trip, e.g. by presenting an invitation or employment contract.
5. Green, yellow and red countries
Currently, Albania, Bosnia, Belarus, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Ukraine, all Asian countries except for China and Japan, all African countries, all American countries except for the USA and all countries in Oceania are labelled red. Bulgaria, the UK, Norway, Russia, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden, China, Japan and the USA are labelled yellow.
All other countries are labelled green for now. The classification of countries will be revised on a weekly basis.
As seen from the above, lawmakers are trying to slow down international travel (again) in order to prevent a potential new wave of the pandemic.
Thinking back to the pandemic-triggered law-making during the spring, we can see that interim laws resulted in the lifting of certain procedures requiring personal contacts. Even though the state of emergency has already been revoked, most of these rules are still in force in order to mitigate personal contacts and eliminate inessential travel.
For example, rules allowing companies to hold shareholders' meetings or render decisions electronically remain applicable until 31 December 2020. These rules allow management, supervisory or audit boards to continue functioning without affecting the company's day-to-day activity. Also, a number of administrative and procedural rules allow people to communicate electronically with official bodies or to participate in legal proceedings from home (e.g. written testimony).