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Coronavirus – PMO Head Gulyás: Majority of Protective Measures Must Remain in Place

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.04.29.

A slow and careful approach is needed in the next phase of Hungary’s response to the novel coronavirus epidemic, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told commercial InfoRadio on Tuesday, adding the majority of protective measures would have to be upheld.

The whole of Europe and even the United States is in a situation where they can now start shifting their focus to finding a way out of the pandemic, Gulyás said. He said the measures imposed in March had been largely successful, arguing that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and the death toll in Hungary and some other central European countries were low in international comparison.

He said that when weighing how to “restart life” in Hungary it was important to take into consideration the level of infection in the country and the need to avoid a massive surge in cases. So the main aim of the measures imposed so far, he said, had been to ensure that the health-care sector could cope with a potential spike in cases. Gulyás said the measures had been effective in making sure that hospitals were ready to deal with even a worst-case scenario.

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He said this gave the government the chance to try to carefully restart life in the country under a strict schedule, adding that the specific measures to be introduced would be approved on Wednesday.

At present, the government can only provide rough estimates in terms of the dates for easing certain restrictions, Gulyás said. “The restrictions on movement have been tough for everyone and online education has also been a heavy burden for parents,” Gulyás said, adding that it was also important “not to lose Hungary’s economic success story”. He said the economy should be restarted in all areas where threats to human life and health could be prevented.

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Gulyás said the government’s decisions on any easing of restrictions needed to reflect the geographic differences in the spread of the virus.

He said cooperation between the government and local councils had been “positive overall” over the past several weeks, adding that local leaders had adequately protected their communities. “This is a good example of how the government and local councils are able to work together regardless of political affiliation in difficult times,” the PM’s Office chief said, adding that “this should be maintained in the next phase of the epidemic response.”

Gulyás added, however, that the situation was “more nuanced” when it came to Budapest. He said the political dispute that had arisen “because of the opposition’s behaviour” had impacted relations between the government and the city council. Gulyás lamented that the opposition had “failed to establish national unity”, refused to back the government’s epidemic response law and “tries to find fault with every single government decision”.

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Concerning the government’s economic protection measures, Gulyás said the most important aspects to take into consideration were the preservation of jobs, the number of registered jobseekers and economic output.

He said the service sector had been hit especially hard by the crisis, but expressed hope that the domestic tourism sector could start bouncing back towards the end of the summer.

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Response measures are similar everywhere, Gulyás said, adding that the government would implement the same steps if a second wave of the virus were to hit in the autumn.

This year’s budget has been amended to enable the necessary epidemic response measures, Gulyás said, adding that next year’s draft budget would be submitted to parliament by May 19 and was expected to be passed by June 30.

He said the special tax on multinationals would remain in place after the epidemic subsides, noting that the government had always intended to impose the tax, and there were now no more legal obstacles to its introduction.

Featured photo illustration by Péter Komka/MTI

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