Hungary Shuts Borders over Coronavirus Spike — EU Immediately Criticises

NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Cars queue up on the Austrian-Hungarian boarder coming from Austria shortly after Hungary imposed a ban on the arrival of non-resident foreigners on September 01, 2020 at Nickelsdorf, Austria. The Hungarian government announced the measure in roder to bring the Covid-19 infection rate in the …
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The European Union has leapt to criticise Hungary for shutting down its borders for most travellers as “not efficient”, despite the nation having one of the lowest coronavirus death rates in Europe.

Hungary’s borders closed to almost all travellers on Tuesday, September 1st, in a move announced the preceding Friday over an uptick in coronavirus cases in the country. A spokesman for the government said the majority of new cases were coming from abroad, EU Observer reported.

Most foreign travellers — excluding some exceptions for military convoys and humanitarian aid passing through, and for citizens of likeminded pro-border control nations Czechia, Poland, and Slovakia — will be barred from Hungary. Hungarian citizens returning to the country will need to self-isolate for two weeks. The border lockdown echoes a similar move by the central European nation earlier in the coronavirus era, shortly after the country recorded its first fatality and when there had been 39 documented cases.

Hungary has one of the best track records of dealing with coronavirus in Europe, going by death rate. Statistical collation by Statista claims the nation has seen 6.29 deaths from the virus per 100,000 population. The figure compares well with other European partners like Sweden, which had almost no lockdown at all with 56.77 deaths per capita, the United Kingdom with 62.27 deaths, and Belgium — the worst impacted in Europe — with 86.38 deaths per 100,000.

Belgium is also the home to the institutions and headquarters of the European Union, which has been quick to criticise Hungary for the border-closing move. EU Observer reports the nation had received a “warning” from Brussels over the closure, which called it “not efficient”. The European Commission sent an official letter to the Hungarian government on Tuesday, which said Hungary should not discriminate against EU citizens by closing its border.

Euronews reports the remarks of Dutch left-liberal Member of the European Parliament Sophie in’ t Veld, whose comments conformed to the usual mien of Brussels-Hungarian interaction, where opportunities to suggest Hungary leave the Union are rarely missed. The parliamentarian said: “Maybe the border closure is just another provocation of the EU. Maybe Mr Orban should consider if he wants to be a member of the EU. If you are a member of a team, you play by the rules.”

Border control has been a central, and broadly successful, feature of the Hungarian right-wing Fidesz government of Viktor Orban, which has enjoyed power since 2010, winning three national elections. Of particular note is the contrary approach taken by the Hungarians to the issue — common to many Western nations — of falling birthrates and ageing populations.

Unlike typical European nations — Germany, Sweden, or the United Kingdom, for instance — which import more humans from abroad to make up the birth shortfall, Hungary is encouraging its own to be fruitful with government support for traditional families. The plan has seen some impact already, with births up five per cent this year alone.

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