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The Parliament’s Public Welfare Committee held an extremely lengthy hearing on Tuesday, asking members of the operative board about several important issues related to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. However, the operative board failed to give precise answers to some of the burning questions.

At the hearing which lasted more than six hours, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller was the first to be questioned, followed by State Secretary Bence Rétvári (delegated by Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler to take his place), Foreign Ministry State Secretary Tamás Menczer, Police Colonel Tibor Lakatos, and Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony.

Chief Medical Officer: Hungarian guideline states disclosing of all information

As we do not yet have a vaccine against the virus, restrictive measures cannot be abandoned, and any person who may be infected must be kept away from others during the incubation period, the Chief Medical Officer emphasized.

Müller said that closed communities such as nursing homes and hospitals that care for coronavirus patients are the most endangered, and it is imperative that the staff in these facilities do not further infect others.

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These are the main focuses of the virus that need to be addressed to help halt the epidemic.

Regarding the death toll, she emphasized that the guideline in Hungary is to disclose all information, therefore, the number of deaths related to the virus are recorded as those caused by the coronavirus, even if a patient died with and not from the coronavirus, but rather from a pre-existing chronic illness.

Increased testing will soon begin so that the easing of measures will not lead to an increase in the number of illnesses.

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In many instances, Müller didn’t give specific answers to the committee’s questions, but it turns out that she would not recommend that the government relieve the restrictions on movement and rules for vulnerable groups (elderly and ill people).

The public health center has so far received 16 complaints from relatives about patients being sent home from hospitals, Cecília Müller said, adding that none of them are cancer patients. She promised to investigate the cases.

The Chief Medical Officer has already ordered an investigation regarding the recent coronavirus related death of a 41-year-old staff member of the Tatabánya hospital.

DK: Chief Medical Officer Serves Fidesz’s Interests

Zoltán Varga, the lawmaker of opposition DK, criticized Cecília Müller the most, calling on her “to put her feet down” and make it clear that epidemiology is a medical and not a political issue, so it’s not her job to serve political parties as, according to the MP, she is currently doing.

His words were rejected by several Fidesz politicians and former Jobbik MP, János Volner. Müller’s remark was that the current situation is difficult and anyone could require mental help to endure it. Tamás Menczer, on the other hand, said Varga’s words are creating a poor political atmosphere, adding that the opposition politician is a “shame.”

Ministry of Human Resources: Protective equipment needed for a long time

Secretary of State Bence Rétvári said that they tried to prepare the healthcare system based on the prediction of scientists and experts for a worst-case scenario. He said no one would have dared to order a lower capacity level.

He also talked about the goal of keeping the virus’s reproduction rate below 1, which without restrictions, would be around 2.2.

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Rétvári said that we needed to prepare for several months of defense, so we also need protective equipment for a long time, and it would be irresponsible to suddenly distribute all of Hungary’s supplies.

He also raised the issue of private warehouses, saying there were not enough public warehouses, so the government had to rent additional space.

When asked how many patients had to leave the hospital in preparation for the coronavirus, neither Rétvári nor the Chief Medical Officer gave a precise answer. Similarly, it was not commented on about on how many people the 67,000 test samples were performed. There was no answer to Krisztina Hohn’s question from the LMP, whether they plan to resume teaching later this school year, because she thinks that such news can be heard from schools.

Foreign Ministry: Fierce competition for Chinese equipment creating ‘cowboy economy’

In response to questions, Tamás Menczer, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, emphasized that they only buy products with a European certificate. He doesn’t know about any faulty masks.

Coronavirus: Hungary Receives Another 6 Million Face Masks, 3 Million Gloves

“The world is lined up at China’s door,” Menczer said, adding that the current situation regarding the procurement of equipment from China resembled a “cowboy economy” and was an example of “rampant capitalism,” highlighting the fierce international competition for goods that are often hard to obtain.

Last week, 20 planes and five lorries delivered a total of 9.5 million surgical masks and 234,000 high-quality FFP face masks to Hungary, Menczer said. He said that 86 million masks have already arrived in Hungary so far, and the country has arranged to receive an additional 62 million.

Budapest mayor: Biggest problem is gov’t not giving enough info to capital city

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony welcomed the government’s screening program to determine the actual number of people infected with the virus, as well as the restrictions put in place with the aim of slowing the virus’s spread. Karácsony said the “biggest problem” when it came to the joint epidemic response was that the capital was not receiving enough information from the government or the operative board coordinating the response.

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“It’s often easier to talk to the mayor of Berlin or Vienna than to talk to the National Chief Medical Officer,” he said adding that a “positive turning point” had been reached when he was invited to the cabinet meeting.

The mayor also said that the Budapest city council had been forced to carry out a number of tasks that it was not officially responsible for, noting that the capital had carried out a 58-point plan.

The mayor has also informed the committee regarding the case of the elderly care home in Budapest’s eastern suburbs that has seen a surge of coronavirus cases and was in the focus of a political fight between the Orbán administration and the opposition-led capital.

Featured photo by János Mészáros/MTI