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As lockdown begins, Hungary reopens borders to some eastern neighbours

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary decided to let tourists from its three East European neighbours, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia enter the country with a fresh negative coronavirus test, it said late on Monday, just as a lockdown on its borders took effect.

Last week Hungary said it would close its borders to foreigners from Tuesday to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. Returning Hungarian citizens can leave a 14-day quarantine only if they provide two negative COVID tests.

However, after talks with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban agreed to let Czech visitors who have already booked holidays in Hungary for September enter the country, the Foreign Ministry said.

The easing was subsequently extended to Poland and Slovakia, the ministry said in a statement. Visitors coming to Hungary have to produce a negative COVID test not older than five days, which Budapest says represents sufficient safety guarantees.

As of Monday, Hungary had reported 6,139 coronavirus cases with 615 deaths. The number of new cases has surged in recent days, just as Hungary prepared to start the school year.

Orban, a nationalist who has been in power since 2010, faces one of the biggest challenges of his rule as the Hungarian economy plunged by an annual 13.6% in the second quarter. Hungary eased lockdown measures in May.

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Stephen Coates