The government has introduced new measures in the fight against the coronavirus, effective Monday; however, it is already planning further restrictions because “current measures are not enough to stop the spread of the epidemic.” These will be decided at this week’s two-day government meeting. According to the National Public Health Center, PM Orbán can make an announcement as early as Tuesday evening.
Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday that “it is clear that the current measures are not enough.” According to the Minister, the Hungarian mortality rate is better than the European average; however, this is only true if we look at the numbers of the first and second waves together, and in the second wave, one of the worst situations in Europe is in Hungary. It is therefore not surprising that the government now also sees that the current measures are not enough to stop the spread of the epidemic, and is planning further tightening of the restrictions from next week on. The details of the restrictions will be decided at a two-day government meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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As to whether the government is thinking in terms of rules for people or institutions, Gulyás said that they plan to introduce new measures for both. An important element of the measures being prepared will be to further tighten the rules of mask-wearing. However, the PMO Head emphasized that the government wants to keep schools open as long as possible. According to Gulyás, keeping schools open is not only important so that parents are not forced into a home office or on leave, but also because the schools have to educate, which they cannot do online in all cases. On the other hand, in higher education, it is up to the maintainer or the university to decide whether or not to teach online.
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A government decision is also expected in connection with sport events, Gulyás said, adding that “significantly stricter rules need to be adopted and followed.” He said if spectators don’t wear masks at the match, if the rules are not followed, not only should the offenders be punished, but also the club, for example, by playing behind closed doors. He said “if there is a mass violation, stadiums must be closed.”
Katalin Novák, the minister for family affairs also talked about the upcoming restrictions on Monday at the Council of the Elderly. She said that the government is weighing the reintroduction of each of the restrictive measures it introduced during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the spring.
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She added that Hungary’s coronavirus situation is no easier than it was a month ago and is expected to get even more difficult. The aim is to ensure that the protective measures are as effective as possible and save as many lives as possible, the minister said. Novák also talked about how the epidemic poses serious challenges to the country’s healthcare system, adding that this was why the government had tightened and plans to further restrict its COVID-19-related regulations.
Novák said that just as in the spring, Hungary is once again watching Austria’s epidemic response closely. According to Novák, because of the similarities between the two countries, the government expects the epidemiological situation to be similar as well, adding that this meant the situation was expected to get “more dramatic” in Hungary in the coming days. In Austria, the government has decided to impose strict restrictions from Tuesday on, which includes the closing of restaurants and a partial curfew: citizens can only stay out on the streets between 8 pm and 6 am in some exceptional cases.
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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is expected to announce new restrictions and measures, after National Public Health Center official Ágnes Galgóczi said that people should follow the news this evening because the PM will make an announcement after the government meeting.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI