Hungary’s health-care system is able to meet increased case loads as there are plenty of unused beds, and every patient in need will get quality care, the head of the prime minister’s office said of the protection efforts against the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyás told a regular government press briefing that the current restrictions will remain unchanged until next week.
The number of new infections either dropped or hovered between 3,000 and 5,000 every day last week, with the exception of Thursday, when mass testing started in certain sectors, he said. The government will assess the results of the latter next week, and the current measures will be maintained until then. The government plans to publish the results concerning the testing of social workers, health-care staff and teachers this weekend, he said.
Meanwhile, responding to further questions regarding the coronavirus situation, asked if further restrictions could be expected between now and Christmas, Gulyás said the government had no plans to introduce tougher restrictions at this stage, adding, at the same time, that it was prepared to relax or step up its response measures when necessary.
Asked whether there would be an opportunity for larger family gatherings during the Christmas holiday, Gulyás said the government would issue clear regulations for the holiday period, and asked the public to be patient.
On the topic of school closures, he said four-fifths of schools were operating smoothly. Only 3-4 percent of schools have had to be closed and less than 20 percent of them have had to send classes on emergency breaks, Gulyás said. These figures, he said, vindicated the government’s decision to keep schools open.
The PM’s chief of staff said the government was drafting changes to rules on sick pay, arguing that it was necessary to give parents the chance to stay home with their children if they are in quarantine. It is also fair to assume that teachers who contract the virus do so while at work, he said, adding that it was reasonable to speed up transfers of their sick pay. All teachers are automatically entitled to 60 percent of their pay when they go on sick leave, while the remainder is paid when it the illness is officially confirmed, he noted, adding that this process should be streamlined so that teachers receive all of their pay under a single procedure.
Asked about a potential overhaul of the health-care sector, Gulyás said the pandemic had demonstrated that Hungary was in need of more organised care. This is why the government has decided to set up the National Hospital Directorate-General, he said. “This doesn’t mean that we’ll be closing hospitals,” Gulyás said. He said he believed the new institution would manage national health care more effectively and in a more organised way.
Gulyás said access to a vaccine against the coronavirus was on the horizon and a vaccine was in its final phase of testing. The government aims to acquire the vaccine from whatever source becomes available, he said. Only those products that are tested, approved and registered by the Hungarian authorities can be used in Hungary, he added. This applies to vaccines from the European Union as well as those developed in the US, Israel, China and Russia, he said.
Vaccination against the coronavirus will be available on a voluntary basis and free of charge, Gulyás said.
He confirmed that Hungary’s government has made arrangements to buy more than 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccine developed in the US and Europe and talks are under way with Russian, Israeli and Chinese developers.
The licensing procedure is at the most advanced stage in China, while Pfizer has stated that testing was in an advanced stage but supplies will initially go the the US rather than Europe, he said. In such cases, half of the advance payment is redeemable, he added.
Gulyás said “this also shows that one cannot expect solidarity” and just like in the case of ventilator acquisitions during the spring, everybody is buying products from wherever they are available. The countries where they are developed have an insurmoutable advantage in getting the products first, he added.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI