Budapest residents drink spritzer by the Danube as COVID rules ease

Marton Dunai and Krisztina Fenyo
·2-min read

By Marton Dunai and Krisztina Fenyo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Budapest residents and a few tourists flocked to cafes lining the River Danube on Saturday for a drink outside in the sun,

after the government decided that having vaccinated more than a third of the population it was time to lift some restrictions.

"We have been waiting for this moment when we can sit out again on a nice sunny day and have a drink for more than six months," said local woman Bernadett. "This is fantastic."

Next week restaurants are set to reopen indoors.

Some remain worried however, as Hungary has racked up the world's highest number of deaths per capita in the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University, and has also had to endure two long lockdowns and a deep recession last year.

The central European country of 10 million has recorded more than 26,000 deaths and still has thousands in hospital and hundreds on ventilators.

Another Budapest resident, who gave her name as Bori, said she is eager to socialise but worried about the consequences.

"I think for the time being it is not a good idea (to open), I would have waited with this," she said. "Unfortunately this is what we have."

The hospitality sector, which accounts for more than 10% of the country's GDP, has been reeling under the pressure of lockdowns and having a full summer season ahead may save some businesses from going bankrupt.

Daniel Toos, who manages Kabin, a hip cafe in a leafy park under a railway bridge by the Danube, said he had struggled to find employees as people were wary of returning to the hospitality sector.

He added it had made him very happy to finally set out the outdoor tables and chairs.

"Getting back together with my colleagues is like a class reunion, we greet each other happily as if after a school break. We think back of last summer and breathe a sigh of relief."

(Reporting by Marton Dunai @mdunai; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)