Hungary’s government will need to introduce stricter rules on travelling abroad starting next month, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday.
The operative board coordinating Hungary’s response to the novel coronavirus epidemic will put forward its proposal on the new rules at next week’s cabinet meeting, Gergely Gulyás told a regular press briefing.
Gulyás advised Hungarians against booking trips abroad in September, particularly to southern countries.
He said the reopening of schools was crucial for keeping the country running like normal, adding that this required keeping the number of Hungary’s Covid-19 cases under control.
The pandemic is getting worse in most European countries and stagnating in only a handful of them, Gulyás said, adding that Hungary was just a few weeks behind the trends seen in other parts of the continent. This, he said, meant that the government was not in a position to relax travel restrictions.
The PM’s Office chief also said that Hungary has updated Norway‘s coronavirus classification from “yellow” to “green“, saying that the country’s case numbers were among the lowest in Europe.
Responding to questions, Gulyás said the current status of the epidemic in Europe indicated that the government would need to introduce stricter epidemiological measures next week, arguing that it would be irresponsible to plan trips abroad that extend beyond Sept. 1. The government understands that cancelling trips that had been booked in advance is difficult, he said, adding, at the same time, that the cabinet needed to consider the public health situation and the conditions of defending against the pandemic when implementing rules on foreign travel.
Asked about the human resources ministry’s pandemic protocols for the upcoming school year, Gulyás said the document contained both important recommendations as well as “unrealistic” ones which he said should be rethought.
He noted that the reason for the tight restrictions imposed during the first wave of the epidemic was that the government needed to buy time for the health-care sector to prepare for handling the growing number of cases. But now the sector is prepared to handle the epidemic and the government wants to begin and end the next school year under the regular conditions.
He said Hungary will immediately place an order for a vaccine that is proven to be effective against the novel virus once it becomes available, adding that he expected the vaccine to be affordable to everyone. Gulyás added that the government had no intention of making any changes to its Covid-19 testing practices.
As regards the state of Hungary’s health-care sector, he said 770 billion forints (EUR 2.2bn) more was being spent on the sector today than in 2010. As a result the average life expectancy for men has gone up by more than two years over the past decade, while women are expected to live longer by one year on average, Gulyás said. Healthy life expectancy for men has increased by 3.5 years and for women by 2.5 years, he added.
The operative board is monitoring the bed occupancy rate at hospitals on a daily basis, Gulyás said.
Meanwhile, Alexandra Szentkirályi, the government spokeswoman, said the special epidemic action unit tasked with investigating coronavirus clusters has started its work. The unit is headed by the deputy chief medical officer and is responsible for coordinating the work of cooperating authorities to ensure that resources are used as efficiently as possible. The unit has the authority to impose restrictive measures, Szentkirályi noted.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI