BUDAPEST - Hungary's government on Monday limited retail store visits in an effort to separate elderly shoppers and contain the coronavirus pandemic in the most vulnerable over-65 age group.
"This government decree serves the protection of the elderly," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a Facebook video.
"The pandemic's statistics clearly show that the most endangered age group is that of our parents and grandparents. Let's take care of them."
Hungary has tried for months to avoid a second lockdown and prevent further harm to the economy but was forced to close secondary schools and impose an 8 p.m.-5 a.m curfew.
Infection numbers and daily deaths from the coronavirus continued to set record highs, however, affecting the elderly in particular and prompting further restrictions, Orban said.
As of Monday, 3,891 Hungarians have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 177,952 people have been infected since the start of the pandemic in the country of 10 million people.
On weekdays, only people over the age of 65 may enter shops between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and at the weekend that time is set from 8-10 in the morning. The elderly may go shopping at any time.
A coronavirus-induced recession is projected to be deeper than previously thought at about 5-6 percent this year and a rebound in 2021 milder than forecast, at no more than 4 percent, according to analyst and government projections.
Hungary's central bank stepped up its stimulus programs in response.
The government will also begin weekly mass testing this week in schools and social institutions like elderly care homes, affecting nearly 240,000 workers in those areas.
"We are fighting in (elementary) schools and kindergartens to avoid having to close them," Orban said.