Hungary’s schools will stay closed from Monday in view of efforts against the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a video announcement published on Facebook on Friday night.
From March 16 on, schools will continue education through digital channels, and no personal presence at the school will be required, Orbán said. New methodologies will be introduced, proposals for which will be announced by the state secretary for education next week.
The schools will be closed for pupils but the directors will be expected to be present, he said. Teachers will give classes over digital channels, he added.
Orbán promised that secondary school pupils will be able to prepare for their school-leaving exams and the exams will most likely be held in the regular order.
The Prime Minister also announced that government had set up ten action groups to combat the new coronavirus and that Israel had been included in the list of countries from where no foreigners are allowed to enter Hungary in an effort to combat the new coronavirus epidemic. (See below)
On Wednesday, Hungarian universities were ordered to close, but a decree issued on the same day explicitly banned school (and kindergarten) directors to send pupils home. Reacting to this, the teachers’ unions have repeatedly called for closures.
On Friday morning, PM Viktor Orbán in his regular interview with state Kossuth Rádió said “that as of current knowledge, the coronavirus doesn’t infect children. As soon as they find that children are at risk, they will close these institutions. He also argued that in case of a closure, teachers would be on unpaid leave. In addition, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller also argued against the closure.
In reaction, the opposition parties slammed the Prime Minister and the government for not taking necessary measures in schools amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
The debate concluded on Friday evening, with an agreement reached. Hungary’s parliamentary parties have unanimously suggested that schools should be closed down on Monday in view of the new coronavirus spreading, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told, adding that the government was likely to pass a decision within one day.
Gergely Gulyás also said that the number of confirmed cases was among the lowest in Europe, and in itself it would not necessitate closing schools down. The government, however, “sees that many do not think that their children are safe” and wants to ensure a way of protection “people find most reassuring”, he said.
The government has reviewed Hungary’s medical supplies available for efforts against the new coronavirus, the Prime Minister said, adding that the national health services could handle tens of thousands of patients with Covid-19.
The country’s laboratory capacities could ensure several thousand tests, Orbán said. Health institutions have 22 million pairs of rubber gloves and 1.2 million surgical face masks, while another 1 million would soon be obtained, the prime minister said.
Hungary has 2,000 respirators and 2,000 pieces of anaesthesia equipment, Orbán said, adding that the purchase of further machines was under way.
The government has set up ten action groups to combat the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced.
An action group for education will be headed by Zoltán Maruzsa, another for the construction of a mobile container hospital by Tamás Tóth, a third in charge of the security of strategic companies by Tibor Benkő, the group for international coordination will be headed by Tamás Menczer, and Zoltán Kovács will lead the group in charge of communications, the prime minister said.
Gergely Gulyás will be head of the group in charge of the state of emergency, Mihály Varga will head the financial action group, and Andrea Bártfai-Magar will be the leader of a group in charge of revitalising the economy.
The government has also set up a coronavirus medication and vaccine research group headed by Ferenc Jakab, and a border control group led by János Balogh.
Israel has been included in the list of countries from where no foreigners are allowed to enter Hungary in an effort to combat the new coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Orbán said this was necessary because several new coronavirus cases had come from Israel.
As a result, currently no foreigners are allowed to enter Hungary from Iran, China, South Korea, Italy and Israel, he said.
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI