Hungary: Vaccinated and unmasked at Christmas markets in Budapest


Traditional Christmas markets have opened in the central squares of Budapest only for those vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, they have also attracted many tourists and locals as central Europe battles a new outbreak of coronavirus.

According to the APE-MPE, a year ago there were no festive open-air markets in Budapest as Hungary was in a state of complete lockdown due to the virus before vaccinations began.

“It’s great that the markets are back. “It was very sad when I visited the square last year, it was decorated but without people.” says Adrienne, wrapped in a black fur coat due to the polar cold with sub-zero temperatures in front of the neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica in the Hungarian capital.

The market in the square where the basilica is located sells Hungarian handicrafts, traditional food – such as the “chimney cake” – and also hosts a small ice rink under the Christmas tree.

Visitors line up in front of checkpoints to show vaccination or disease certificates before entering the market, as required by current regulations.

“I fully agree that only vaccinated people should be allowed to enter. Maybe more people should also wear their masks. “It’s very difficult to keep away from others when there are so many people here,” said another local visitor, Impolia Koszegi.

Masks are mandatory only in indoor public spaces in Hungary and only a few visitors wear them at the flea market as they wander around drinking tea or mulled wine.

Many of them are tourists who chose Budapest as some other Central European countries closed their Christmas markets in an effort to curb the rise in cases and boost low demand for vaccines.

Shopping in the Czech capital, Prague, has been canceled, while in the Austrian capital, Vienna, almost two hours from Budapest, it is expected to open on Monday after a two-week hiatus.

As Hungary struggles to control the fourth wave of the pandemic, attendees at events with more than 500 participants will have to show a certificate of vaccination or illness. Restaurants, shops, malls and schools remain open to everyone.  

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