May 18, 2020 / 12:06 PM / 13 days ago

Hungary and Slovenia aim to reopen border by June 1 - minister

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto attends a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/Files

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary and Slovenia have agreed on a road map towards a gradual reopening of their border by June 1, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

Hungary started lifting coronavirus restrictions in Budapest from Monday, though residents returning to shops or travelling on public transport will have to wear face masks.

“Restarting our economies is not possible without restarting international cooperation,” Szijjarto wrote, adding that annual trade between the two European Union member states was worth more than 2.5 billion euros.

“Therefore, without jeopardising the protection of health, which is a priority, an easing of restrictive measures imposed at the borders is needed.”

A phased reopening is the government’s strategy to head off deeper and more lasting harm to the economy, which is expected to shrink by about 4% this year, according to a Reuters survey.

As of Monday, Hungary had reported 3,535 cases of coronavirus, 462 deaths and 1,400 recoveries. Slovenia had reported 1,466 cases and 104 deaths.

Szijjarto said a lockdown in the two countries had helped prevent the large-scale spread of the coronavirus, allowing for a gradual restarting of economic activity.

“Taking all this into account, we have started working on a gradual phase-out of measures restricting border crossings, setting June 1 as a target date,” Szijjarto wrote.

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs and Anita Komuves; Editing by Alex Richardson

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