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Hungarians Protest Against Lockdown Measures, Despite Ban On Gatherings

Police were seen checking the documentation of those attending the Budapest rally on January 31.

Hundreds of people have protested in Budapest against coronavirus lockdown measures.

The protesters wore masks but defied rules that ban public gatherings. Police were asking for documents from those attending the rally on January 31.

Meanwhile, at least 100 restaurants in the Hungarian capital vowed to reopen for business beginning on February 1 -- despite government warnings that would face fines of up to $17,000 for doing so.

Current lockdown measures include a nighttime curfew and the closure of secondary schools, as well as the closure of all restaurants and cafes except for takeaway orders.

"We have had enough of the mass destruction of businesses," protest organizers said on Facebook.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has said it could only start easing the measures if the number of coronavirus cases declines sharply, or if large numbers of Hungarians are inoculated.

On January 29, Orban said on state radio that "people could die if we do not bear with the restrictions for a few more weeks ... It is not a solution if people go out and violate the rules."

Hungary during the past week became the first European Union member state to sign a deal for Russia's Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine and China's SinoPharm's vaccine.

With a population of about 10 million, Hungary had reported a total of 367,586 COVID cases as of January 31, including 12,524 deaths.

New infections have recently been dropping. But more than 3,500 COVID-19 patients remain in hospitals.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP
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    RFE/RL's Hungarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service -- closed after the Cold War ended -- was relaunched on September 8, 2020, in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom. It's an entirely digital service dedicated to serving the public interest by representing a diversity of views and providing reliable, unbiased reporting about the issues audiences care about most.