Millions of Hungarians to lose validity of their Immunity Certificates
The Immunity Certificates will be renamed Vaccination Certificates as of 15 February, Gergely Gulyás, chief of staff for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has told a press briefing on Thursday. The reason is that the Omicron variant of concern (B.1.1.529) causes a different disease therefore getting infected by it does not entail immunity that makes one eligible for such a document, he explained.
As of mid-February, the certificate will be valid only for those that received three doses of COVID-19 vaccines, or who received their second dose within six months.
The cards will not have to be replaced, the QR code on them will continue to verify if the bearer is holding a valid card or not.
Immunity Certificates are mandatory in very few places in Hungary that has one of the lowest scores in the world on the Stringency Index.
Under a the relevant government decree, said certificate must be displayed at sporting events, music and dance events with more than 500 guests, concerts and other events held in enclosed spaces. Many spas also require their guests to have the certs. Parents are often not allowed to accompany their children to the pool or the locker room in swimming pools, and many schools deny parents entry unless they present their immunity certificate.
Gulyás did not say what changes the government plans to make to the rights attached to the immunity cards.
Portfolio estimates that up to 6.8 million certs have been issued (authorities were quick to mail them as soon as people got their first dose, while some have not received their plastic card even a year after their first shot).
Up to date, slightly more than half a million people were issued the certificate with a six-month validity for having gained (some degree of) immunity via infection. There could be an overlap, of course, but we do not know its extent.
The table below says it all.
About one third of those that currently hold an immunity certificate could face losing its validity as of 15 February.
The table also includes an estimate as to how many card holders there can be a month from now.
Also note that there was a plan last May that the cabinet could make the immunity certificates null and void for those that got their first jab but never went back for the second. Some reports estimated that around 100,000 Hungarians were looking at this fate.
As of today, some 254,000 people have not been vaccinated with a second dose. We have no information on how many immunity certificates, if any at all, have been rendered invalid due to this reason, but theoretically these people could also hold invalid cards come 15 February.
When asked repeatedly about the government's plans to tighten regulations or at least rights linked to the immunity certificates, Gulyás kept dodging the questions by saying the cabinet is ready to consider measures if the epidemiological situation requires it.
With two and a half months left until the election (3 April), which could prove to be PM Viktor Orbán's toughest challange yet to remain in power against a unified front of opposition parties, it is safe to assume that severe lockdown measures or curtailing the rights of those not holding a card are unlikely.