BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's government will allow private employers to require that their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for work as the number of new infections and deaths in the country reaches levels not seen since a devastating pandemic surge last spring.
At a government news conference Thursday, the prime minister's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas announced that the central government would also opt to require vaccination for public employees, but that mayors in local municipalities could decide whether to impose the requirement.
The wearing of masks on public transportation will be mandatory beginning Monday, and non-essential visits to public health care institutions will be prohibited, Gulyas said.
The measures came as Hungary is experiencing a sharp spike in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. On Thursday, 4,039 new cases were registered — the highest daily total since mid-April and nearly double the number from a week earlier.
The number of daily deaths also reached a peak not seen since May with 45.
The option to require jabs in workplaces could prompt a boost in vaccination rates, which have been stagnant for months amid skepticism.
While doses are plentiful in Hungary, less than 70% of the adult population has received a shot, compared to the European Union average of 80%, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“Hungary is among the best in the Central Europe, but we don’t even reach the average in the European Union,” said Gulyas, who emphasized the importance of increasing vaccination rates amid the worsening pandemic.