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Overview of the epidemiological measures taken by the City of Budapest

Mayor Gergely Karácsony reported on the epidemiological measures introduced in Budapest at a meeting hosted by the Parliamentary Welfare Committee.

PRIORITIES:

  1. Reducing the spread of the virus, promoting social distancing
  2. Protecting our citizens who are at high risk
  3. Ensuring care for people infected by the virus
  4. Helping citizens in difficult circumstances due to the epidemiological measures and economical changes
  5. To review the continuous operation of public services, to ensure the continuous performance of mandatory and voluntary municipal tasks by reviewing and amending the city’s budget

Coordination and Information:

  1. Establishing the Budapest Operative Board. Regular consultations with district mayors.
  2. March 19, 2020: To slow down and curb the coronavirus pandemic, the capital has launched telephone, public and social media campaigns. The Mayor informed the people of Budapest by phone, new posters replaced the previous ones and several artists, as well as people well known on Facebook and Instagram, raised awareness in a video to pay special attention to the elderly.
  3. On March 21, 2020, koronavirus.budapest.hu, the website of the Municipality of Budapest, was launched, which summarizes information about the coronavirus for the residents of Budapest. The website is the primary platform for news about Budapest, recommendations from the Budapest Operative Board, and announcements by the Mayor. In addition to the constantly updated information, the measures taken by the government are also publicized on it. The people of Budapest will find the services provided by the capital, as well as the contact details of their customer service centres. Donations can also be offered through the website, that can assist those in need during the pandemic emergency.
  4. March 26, 2020, Budapest helps shoppers with reference stickers in stores, to help both the shoppers and shopkeepers by drawing attention to social distancing while shopping, and to help avoid crowds in stores. The stickers and their delivery are also free, but they can also be downloaded from the internet.
  5. March 28, 2020, as a small gesture, from March 27, the Chain Bridge was lit up with white decorative lighting in honour of the doctors, nurses and those fighting on the frontline against the virus.

 

TRANSPORTATION

  1. From 19 March, 2020, all Budapest Transport Centre’s (BKK) services switched their operations to the summer timetable. Following the collection of traffic data and feedback from passengers, the schedule was switched to the school holiday timetable. During the graduation period for students, BKK services will once again operate with the regular weekday schedule. The BKK FUTÁR application provides continuous and up-to-date information on the changes.
  2. From March 16, we reduced the price of the Bubi shared bicycle services to the lowest level technically possible, at 100 HUF per month. This facilitates the use of alternative modes of transport to minimize human contact, thus reducing the further spread of the virus.
  3. In order to protect drivers, from 16 March, restrictions on front door boarding was put in place for buses and trolleybuses, and tickets were no longer possible to be purchased from the driver. The health of drivers is protected by a barrier – with the other doors open to passengers.
  4. In consultation with employers, the Municipality of Budapest recommended to the government that the working hours should be more flexible for employees, as the biggest risk for spread is during rush hours. March 12, 2020, employers in Budapest were asked to provide employees with the possibility to work from home.
  5. BKK has increased the frequency of disinfection on its public transportation vehicles.
  6. For those working in the healthcare sector fighting the pandemic, we have provided free parking in Budapest during the state of emergency (March 23, 2020). Regarding residential parking and parking fees, we agreed with the Mayors of the districts, that since there are still more cars in the city than parking lots, we cannot increase the number of parking lots in the short term. The increase in traffic would cause crowding and increase the risks, therefore no changes were proposed regarding parking in Budapest. This decision was later overwritten by the Government Decree 87/2020. (April 5, 2020), which made parking in Budapest free ever since.
  7. March 30, 2020, healthcare workers have been permitted to be able to travel for free on BKK services until the end of the state of emergency.
  8. April 3, 2020, the Municipality of Budapest decided to establish temporary bicycle lanes on important routes. The construction of approximately 25 km of temporary bicycle lanes started and has already been partially handed over. With this move, Budapest’s aim was to help its residents get to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
  9. From 27 April, it is mandatory to cover your face with a mask or scarf on all public transport in Budapest, as well as in shops, stores, markets, shopping centres and taxis, in order to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Before, and during the start of the new travel conditions, a total of 60,000 masks were distributed free of charge by BKK employees at ten busy junctions in Budapest, several times a week, between 7:00am and 9:00am. The Hungarian Reformed Charity Service also joined the initiative, and in the first round 5,000, and later an additional 25,000 masks will be given free of charge to passengers.

MONITORING OF PUBLIC AREAS

  1. The junk clearance was postponed by the Metropolitan Public Area Maintenance Plc. (FKF) in consultation with the district Mayors (March 16). As of April 14, 2020, only four landfills are open, and the Awareness and Recycling Centres have been closed.
  2. Due to the coronavirus, the tasks of the Municipality of Budapest Law Enforcement Directorate (FÖRI) has significantly expanded. In addition to performing regular public tasks, the directorate regularly inspects closed playgrounds, and is involved in the delivery and distribution of protective equipment from abroad, as well as in the transportation of nurses to nursing homes in Budapest. They also assist the districts overburdened by social care responsibilities, such as delivering relief packages and hot meals, as well as daily shopping for the elderly and for other high-risk individuals, based on the needs of social care providers.

FÖRI is now able to perform its tasks with more than double their regular capacity, thanks to the offers by the Metropolitan Chimney Sweeping Co. (FŐKÉTÜSZ), GreenGO and MOL Limo. Several other organizations are also assisting FÖRI to carry out the increased tasks. In addition to FÖRI’s own 33 cars, FŐKÉTÜSZ also provided an additional 32 cars and drivers as their regular non-emergency related work, including on-site inspections were postponed to a later date. In addition, significant support has been provided by GreenGo, an electric car-sharing company that helps inspect playgrounds and other transportation work, involving administrative tasks with 10 vehicles. MOL Limo also provided 5 cars and 5 drivers to FÖRI, who are mainly involved in social care.

  1. On Easter and on the weekends of April 25-26, Margaret Island was closed based on the decision of the Mayor. Óbuda island, as well as the Római part were also closed from 8am until 10pm based on the decisions made in cooperation with the districts.
  2. The employees of FKF Plc. are disinfecting the metros in Budapest at night.

 

PUBLIC SERVICES

  1. In Budapest, all basic public services were continuously provided during the state of emergency, therefore the public service companies significantly reorganized their internal operational processes to protect the health of their employees, and the possibility of home office was created. Repairs and troubleshooting services are in continuously operating in Budapest, but some non-emergency services requiring personal contact have been suspended.
  2. Due to the state of emergency, personal customer service at the Mayor’s Office, and all public service companies and institutions in Budapest have been restricted or suspended, however, all services provide administration by phone, email and online.
  3. In view of the decreasing amount of vehicle traffic, several companies in Budapest brought forward planned renovation and maintenance works, which would otherwise have caused significant congestion in road traffic.
  4. Under the management of the District Heating Supplier of Budapest Plc (FŐTÁV), the operation of heating plants and the safety of the services remains uninterrupted, even with the reduced number of employees.
  5. In order to reduce the risk of infection, the Budapest Funeral Institute Plc. ordered that funerals can only be attended by a maximum of 10 people for inside ceremonies (in case of a larger number of people, the company provides services outside free of charge).
  6. In the administration offices of the cemeteries, only a limited number of people can be present based on the number of customer service windows open. Aside from this, the administration will continue without any interruption.
  7. The continuous supply of protective equipment (protective masks and clothing) to colleagues dealing with the deceased has been solved.
  8. In order to protect citizens, FŐKÉTÜSZ Metropolitan Chimney Sweeping company will temporarily suspend its scheduled chimney inspections in Budapest and personal customer services.
  9. This measure will not affect technical inspections and urgent repairs. The requests for chimney adequacy certificates, and the technical customer service relating to the issuing of certificates is reopened with reduced customer reception time. The requests for chimney adequacy certificates and the technical customer service relating to the issuing of certificates are still guaranteed. Chimney sweeper experts are provided with medical protective equipment and sanitizer in all cases. The company highlights that customers who wish to cancel already submitted requests for technical checks, are required to do so on the website www.kemenysepro.hu by providing the exact address where the inspection will happen, as well as the customer’s name.
  10. The cars used by FÖKÉTÜSZ have been offered to perform the social tasks temporarily taken over by FÖRI, the drivers have also assisted in this work.
  11. Budapest Waterworks has suspended the reading of the water meters in flats, the meter readings will be recorded by customers instead.
  12. Budapest Public Roads continues to perform the traffic monitoring tasks of its entire road network road pit and road repairs are ongoing. The operation and supervision of the devices and facilities regulating the traffic remains uninterrupted.
  13. The taxi station use agreements, which expire annually, is carried out continuously through the web application developed for this purpose. Inspections of personal taxis requiring a face-to-face meeting have been suspended, and the taxis’ technical parameters are currently being established from documents, with the condition that a random inspection will be carried out later after the emergency has ended. The issuing of road management contributions continues. All administrative task are performed online. The Engineer Board continues to perform full-time work.
  14. Playgrounds, public toilets, and fitness parks operated by Metropolitan Horticultural Nonprofit Plc FŐKERT are closed. Previously announced company events will be cancelled, and requests for tree planting and other scheduled volunteer work will be postponed.
  15. The composting plant of FŐKERT (1106 Budapest, Keresztúri út 130.) is only open for contracted partners and at a pre-arranged time.

CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS

  1. On 12 March 2020, the Capital – ahead of the government, informed theatres under its maintenance to suspend all performances everywhere, regardless of audience numbers. Cinemas maintained by the capital had to suspend all screenings. The Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library is also closed.
  2. March 14, 2020: The Budapest Botanical Garden and Zoo – which only held its outdoor programs regardless – was closed.
  3. The Budapest Spas cPlc. closed all its spas. Guests of can resume their interrupted treatments after reopening. Prepaid treatments will be refunded upon request. In the case of interrupted NNK (OEP) funded treatments, the treating physician may re-order unused treatments. Spa passes are frozen for the length of the closing and their expiration will be automatically extended.
  4. The operation of the INFO Desk operated by the Hall and Market Directorate of the Municipality of Budapest in the Central Market at Vámház körút, which is mainly visited by foreign tourists, has been temporarily suspended.

PUBLIC EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

  1. March 14, 2020 Nurseries and kindergartens were closed in the capital (the state has jurisdiction over all schools).

ECONOMIC, LABOR AND SOCIAL POLICY MEASURES

  1. Small and medium-sized businesses that rent their business premises from the Municipality of Budapest will not be billed for rent from March to June, and if they decide on retaining their employees, they will not only receive an extension, but also significant discounts on rent, based on the amount lost due to the lack of sales.
  2. The Municipality of Budapest will accept a proposal in the following days on remuneration for employees who perform additional tasks in nursing homes during the pandemic. As per the proposal, the operator would allocate HUF 190,460,000 for this purpose. The average reward rate is HUF 100,000 per person. However, the exact amount will be decided by the head of the institution up from the allocated amount.
  3. Until 31 December 2020, tenants of social houses owned by capital may claim a rental fee decrease proportional to their income if their income has decreased due to the pandemic.

 

PROCUREMENT OF PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

  1. Due to the experienced lack of appropriate protective clothing and masks and protective clothing in March, the capital made efforts to procure these from its own resources. At the same time, we also initiated that health care workers and employees in Budapest receive a share from government procurements as soon as possible (March 16). On March 23, we purchased 35,000 surgical mouth masks as an immediate purchase. The winners were selected from 12 bidders in a negotiated procurement procedure at the end of March. 1.5 million surgical mouth mask and 250,000 FFP2 / KN95 masks were purchased.
  2. So far, the Municipality of Budapest has acquired a total of 20,800 tests. Of this, 10,000 IgM / IgG type tests were purchased from Kelen Kórház Co. within the framework of a public procurement procedure. These tests are still continuously used in nursing homes and homeless centres. The provider of the 10,800 PCR tests is Corden International Co.
  3. We were able to distribute 300 face shields among the staff of our institutions from a civil donation.
  4. Our Chinese sister cities (Shanghai, Nanking and Hangzhuo) assisted the defence of the capital with an additional 65,000 masks, while the Vietnamese-Hungarian community contributed with 5,000 masks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs assisted in transporting the Chinese donations to Hungary.

 

SERVICES FOR THE HOMELESS

  1. The CAPITAL’S RECOMMENDATIONS: We compiled and sent all homeless care organizations a long, detailed document entitled “Tasks and Opportunities for Preventing a Coronavirus Outbreak in Homeless Care Centres” in March. The recommendations summarize the measures in homeless shelters based on the central government’s guidelines; based on best practices already implemented by certain institution; based on available recommendations in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian; and based on consultations with the staff of the National Public Health Centre.
  2. COOPERATION: We work closely with the Central Hungarian Regional Dispatcher Service, which plays a key role in coordinating attendance in the capital.
  3. We consult regularly (1-2 times a week) with the representatives of major attendance organizations.
  4. PROVISION OF ASSETS: So far almost 100,000 surgical mask and 4800 FFP2 masks were provided for homeless shelters.
  5. We provided 100,000 face shields for the 5 health centres that operatein homeless care. Upon request, we also provided face shields to the institutions regulated by the epidemiological measure.
  6. We offered each organization mobile hand washing stations and screens to be placed between the beds and made sure to fulfil the received requests.
  7. About 4,000 large, colourful posters were printed and distributed to homeless shelters. In addition to the usual messages relating to frequent, thorough hand washing, attention is also drawn to the epidemiological dangers of ‘tickling’.
  8. ENSURING CATERING: We assessed the increased catering needs in the homeless shelters and the temporary family homes for caused by travel restrictions and the ban on leaving institutions. The catering company of the Municipality of Budapest has undertaken the task to provide (prepare and deliver) more than 5,000 breakfasts and 3 to 3,000 lunches and dinners free of charge in order to meet the increased needs.
  9. EARLY DETECTION AND TESTING: In accordance with the recommendations of the capital, a comprehensive, regular health screening homeless shelter visitors has been operating since March. This means that staff is checking the body temperatures of those who visit the shelters and day warmers on a daily basis, ask them about any symptoms and, if necessary, take action to notify the relevant health authorities.
  10. To date, more than 1000 coronavirus tests (IgG / IgM and PCR) have been provided to homeless shelters, for those working there and those receiving services.
  11. AVOIDING CROWDING: By involving 71 flats owned by the municipality, 33 dormitory rooms and 20 containers for residential use, and by creating or vacating a total of 126 beds at BMSZKI sites, we seek to alleviate or prevent crowding in night shelters and ensure the possibility of isolating the elder homeless population and those suffering from chronic illness. Several additional properties are in the process of procurement or preparation for the above purposes.
  12. OPENING AND OPERATING A CRISIS HOSTEL: In order to control the pandemic, most night shelters do not allow newcomers. In order to ensure that no one in the capital is left without accommodation, we have opened and are operating (via BMSZKI) a 75-bed crisis accommodation.
  13. PROTECTING THOSE LIVING ON THE STREET: In recent weeks, rapid temperature drops followed warm weather several times. As of currently, the accommodating institutions and shelter services do not operate at the usual capacity. The Municipality of Budapest Law Enforcement Directorate acted according to the protocol established for the coldest winter times, i.e. it treated the protection of homeless people in Budapest as a priority.

NURSING HOMES

  1. The acquisition of protective equipment is ongoing in all nursing homes maintained by the Municipality of Budapest. In addition to the procurement of equipment through the homes’ own resources, the Municipality of Budapest provides the institutions with masks, overalls, disinfectants, gloves and face shields.
  2. Metropolitan Public Area Maintenance Plc (FKF). helps in the protection of the nursing homes with its own surface disinfectants.
  3. The chauffeur staff of FÖRI and the Municipality of Budapest are continuously transporting social workers and nurses working in nursing homes in order to minimize the risk of infection.
  4. 993 PCR and 855 pcs. IgM / IgG tests were performed on April 28 in the nursing homes, a total of 1848 tests were performed so far, and the tests are still ongoing.
  5. Since the declaration of the state of emergency of March 11, 2020 (to date), the 11 nursing homes maintained by the capital have spent a total of HUF 206,704,642 on virus-related expenses.