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Hungarian Press Roundup: Trading Accusations over Coronavirus and Vaccination

Hungary Today 2021.01.11.

While the willingness of Hungarians to sign up for the coronavirus vaccine is slowly increasing, the right and left blame each other for the low level of trust in the vaccine among Hungarians.

Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu

Background information: so far only one million Hungarians have signed up for the coronavirus vaccination on the dedicated website. According to one poll, the willingness of Hungarians to be injected has improved slightly, but a third of the population still does not want to participate, and only slightly over half want to be vaccinated.

In Élet és Irodalom, Iván Váncsa accuses the government of falsely claiming that Hungary has been successful in containing the coronavirus, as the number of deaths per million inhabitants in Hungary is higher than in neighbouring Austria, Serbia, Ukraine and Slovakia, and way above the western European average. In light of the data, Váncsa finds it outrageous that the government does not allocate more funding to the health care system.

In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Sütő-Nagy writes that contrasting national data on coronavirus death rates is like comparing apples to oranges. The pro-government commentator notes that different countries use different methodologies, and therefore national statistics cannot be easily compared. As Hungarian death rates are very close to the US coronavirus related deaths, Hungary is doing better than the European average, and suggestions by opposition parties to the contrary amount to fake news, he claims.

Magyar Nemzet’s Dávid Megyeri accuses the opposition of slowing down vaccination by fear-mongering. The pro-government commentator dismisses as absurd the opposition’s suggestion that the government has no clear vaccination roadmap. Megyeri recalls that in an interview with Politico, liberal analyst Péter Krekó said that “if you undermine the willingness of people to vaccinate themselves, [Orbán] can suffer the political consequences”, which in Megyeri’s interpretation indicates that the opposition parties want to make the pandemic worse, in the hope that the higher the death toll and the deeper the economic crisis, the more voters will turn away from the governing party.

Magyar Nemzet’s, Ottó Gajdics lambasts former LMP, now independent MP Ákos Hadházy for publishing a video of a morgue fully packed with coffins in the city of Szentendre. According to Hadházy, the video shows that many more people die of coronavirus than the official statistics suggest. Hadházy also alleged that infected people stay at home because hospitals are full. Gajdics finds the publication of the video unacceptable and inhumane. The pro-government commentator adds that Szentendre is led by an opposition mayor, therefore the government cannot be made responsible for the management of the morgue.

Magyar Narancs in a first page editorial dismisses any suggestion that either the opposition, or Péter Krekó, wanted to undermine the success of vaccination. The liberal authors reject as ‘mere government propaganda’ the allegation that Péter Krekó or other analysts want the opposition to boost their base by scaring people away from vaccination. Krekó and other analysts wanted to point out that the government has weakened trust among Hungarians and is thus responsible for the high rejection rate of vaccines in Hungary, the authors suggest.

In Népszava, Zsuzsa Mizsei finds the government’s vaccination registration campaign highly problematic. The left-wing pundit fears that personal data submitted with the application will be used later ‘by the government’s propaganda machine’. While Mizsei wants to get vaccinated as soon as possible, she has decided not to submit her application yet, due to her fears over privacy.

On Azonnali, former MSZP MP and MEP Gyula Hegyi writes that the Left should unanimously support vaccination. The left-wing analyst goes so far as to suggest that vaccination should be made mandatory. Hegyi contends that the Left should defend rationality and distance itself from irrational fears over vaccines. In addition, the Left should put the community, not the individual first, and demand compulsory vaccination in the name of the collective interest.

Featured photo illustration by Csaba Krizsán/MTI