New protocol on COVID-19

With the progress of the epidemic, it became crucial to change the healthcare protocol, which determines for example who needs to be tested for the coronavirus. Here’s a brief look at how to comply with the new regulations.

What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19?

By all means, stay at home. Do not go to your general practitioner, call them instead, they will ask you questions about your symptoms and your recent contacts and whether or not you have recently been abroad.

If based on the above you are likely to have COVID-19 and

  • the symptoms are mild and you do not belong to any risk group therefore you do not need hospital treatment and you can self-isolate at home you will be placed in home quarantine. You will only be tested if the health services have the capacity to do so;
  • the symptoms are severe (e.g. breathing difficulty, pneumonia) and/or you belong to a group at higher risk (eldery or with an underlying condition) or you are not able to self-isolate (because you look after to an elderly or ill person), your GP will call a special ambulance to take you to hospital.

Who will be tested for COVID-19?

It is mandatory to test suspected and probable cases if they end up in hospital or they are already there. If they are at home, the testing will depend on availability so they are not done automatically. 

You are considered to be a suspected case if

  • you have a fever of at least 38°C, OR you have a cough or difficulty breathing AND you have been abroad during the previous 14 days;
  • You have a fever of at least 38°C, OR you have a cough or difficulty with breathing AND you have been in close contact with someone who probably or certainly has COVID-19 (you live in the same household or you spent more than 15 minutes at a distance of less than 2 metres from the person in an enclosed space);
  • You have a fever of at least 38°C AND you present at least one of the symptoms of a respiratory disease (e.g. cough, breathing difficulty, pneumonia) AND you need hospital treatment;
  • You have the symptoms of a respiratory disease and the doctor or the authorities consider you a suspected case.

You are considered to be a probable case if you fulfill the criteria of a suspected case AND

  • Your COVID-19 test results are not clear OR
  • Your COVID-19 results come back positive.

Who will be placed in hospital quarantine?

Patients who are being examined or are suspected and

  • Are in a severe state and/or
  • Are part of a risk group (elderly  or with an existing condition)
  • Cannot self-isolate at home.

Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in a hospital

will be placed in hospital quarantine.

Those who cannot self-isolate at home but do not need to be treated in hospital can be placed in other facilities appointed by the authorities.

Who must be placed in home quarantine?

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospital treatment.
  • People who have symptoms and are suspected cases or under examination, but their symptoms are mild and their overall health conditions do not justify a need to be treated in a hospital—i.e. they can self-isolate at home.
  • People who do not yet have symptoms but have been in close contact with someone who probably or certainly has COVID-19 (they live in the same household or you spent more than 15 minutes at a distance of  less than 2 metres from the person in an enclosed space).
  • People who have returned from specific countries need to stay in home quarantine for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms and they tested negative. These countries at the moment are: Italy, China, South-Korea, Israel and Iran.

It is very important that authorities have the right to check whether you comply with the rules of home quarantine and in case you do not, there will be sanctions.

What about Hungarians returning from abroad?

Hungarian citizens can return without any problems from most countries, and they will not even get tested. 

Those who return from abroad and have a fever of at least 38°C or have a cough, or breathing difficulty will get tested and they will be isolated at home or in hospital.

Those who return from Italy, China, South-Korea, Israel or Iran will have to undergo a mandatory medical check.

  • If they are suspected to have COVID-19, they will be quarantined (in hospital, another medical facility or the person’s own home).
  • If they are unlikely to be infected, they have to self-isolate at home for 14 days.
  • In the exceptional case if it is highly unlikely that the person is infected the above rules can be waived.

What happens to non-Hungarians returning to Hungary?

At the moment, only Hungarian citizens can enter Hungary. Non-Hungarian citizens—other than those bringing in supplies—can enter the country in accordance with the specific decrees on the emergency state emitted by the government, and in some cases there is room for exceptions. 

Citizens of the EEA with a permanent residence card belong to the same category as Hungarian citizens, therefore they can enter the country. Here you can find the list of EEA countries and here you can learn more on who can apply for a permanent residence card in Hungary. It is important to note that the permanent residence card in itself is not enough to enter Hungary. Only the citizens of an EEA country with a permanent residence card can enter. This can be problematic because not only citizens of EEA countries can be granted this card in Hungary; it can therefore happen that a citizen of an EEA country is allowed to enter Hungary and their family from outside the EEA is not, even though all of them have a permanent residence card.

The Head of the Hungarian Police Department has been given the right of special consideration to waive the ban from entering the country, if

  • a person has already been medically examined and
  • there is no suspicion of a COVID-19 infection and
  • the Public Health Office has registered them.

We know about some cases where this ban has been lifted, so it might be worth applying for, however the decision making process based on the known cases is not clear. 

It is very likely that family members of Hungarian citizens or people that live in Hungary but are not citizens of an EEA country or they are but do not have a permanent residence card can still enter the country this way. 

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