Hungary's immunity cards allow packed stands, raise concerns

Hungary's immunity cards allow packed stands, raise concerns


BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Tens of thousands of soccer fans packed the Puskas Arena in Budapest last week to attend Euro 2020 matches. It was the first full-house international soccer event in Europe in more than a year — made possible largely by Hungary's adoption of government-issued immunity cards.

The only one of the tournament's 10 host countries to allow full crowds in stadiums, Hungary has conducted one of Europe's most successful COVID-19 vaccination drives. The immunity cards attest that their bearers have received at least one vaccine dose or recovered from COVID-19, and allow them access to sports events as well as to services and venues such as hotels, spas, concerts, theaters and indoor restaurant dining.

Yet while the cards have allowed many to regain many aspects of pre-pandemic life, others worry that their use could impact fundamental rights.

“There was a lot of anxiety in society on potential discrimination," said David Vig, director of rights group Amnesty International Hungary. “(The government) said, ‘There will be a distinction between people: Those who have the vaccination card, and those who do not.'"

Hungary's procurement of vaccines from Russia and China, as well as through the European Union, quickly gave it the second highest vaccination rate in the 27-member bloc after Malta. More than 66% of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

But in recent weeks, as most of those willing to be vaccinated have already got a jab, the pace of vaccination has slowed dramatically. Government figures show that some 2 million people still do not have an immunity card, which restricts them from many opportunities available to cardholders.

These continued restrictions for the...

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