Hungary will close its borders for all passenger transport and only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Monday.
International coordination talks on the closure are under way, he said in parliament.
Gov’t bans all events from Monday midnight
All events in Hungary will be banned starting at midnight on Monday, Orbán said, adding that sporting events should be held behind closed doors unless the organisers cancel those events altogether.
Pubs, cinemas and other cultural facilities will also be closed. Restaurants, cafes and shops will be allowed to remain open until 3pm, Orban said, adding that the restriction will not apply to food stores, pharmacies and drug stores.
Orbán has called on people to postpone all gatherings except for family events, and warned that the elderly were exceptionally vulnerable to the new virus.
I believe the government cannot ban over 70s from leaving their homes … but I can definitely ask them not to leave their homes, even if we cannot ban this”
Local councils will be obliged to organise supplies for elderly people staying at home and look after them, he said and asked local councils to handle this as a priority task.
Orbán: grave economic consequences, budget to be redrafted
Commenting on the grave economic consequences of the situation, he said there were sectors, such as tourism, hospitality and services where “trouble had already knocked on the door”. He said he had asked minister in charge of national assets Andrea Bártfai-Máger to consult with representatives of the most troubled industries in order to introduce quick measures to help them.
He stressed the necessity of measures to protect workplaces and warned of a serious wave of unemployment approaching. He asked employers and employees to make personal efforts to preserve jobs.
The new coronavirus epidemic will require a rewrite of fiscal and economic policy, Orbán said.
The budget will have to be redrafted “at all levels”, a task that will be coordinated by the finance minister, he said in parliament.
The governor of Hungary’s central bank has also become involved in the matter, Orbán said.
Orbán: course of life will be different in next months
Orbán added that handling the crisis will be a difficult and lengthy process and requires everybody to make adjustments because “the course of life will be different in the upcoming months from what we are used to”. The work of people in health care and law enforcement will be of primary importance in the upcoming period, he said and expressed thanks to them for their efforts so far. He also thanked all Hungarians for their discipline demonstrated in the extraordinary situation and for obeying the regulations.
Cooperation and discipline are our most important assets”
Orbán said he expected the epidemic in Hungary to enter a new phase in the next few days when groups of people could become infected rather than isolated cases. As long as there is no vaccine, “the only chance” is to slow down the spread of the virus, he said.
Referring to the government’s measures taken so far, Orbán mentioned the introduction of a state of emergency and banning the entry of foreign nationals from several countries. The government also banned large events and closed universities earlier, and banned school trips to other countries. The government ordered that public education should be shifted to a distant learning model, and initiated construction of an epidemiology hospital.
The government has also set up an action group of Hungarian virologists, tasked to monitor international efforts and contribute to the work wherever they can, Orbán said, adding that “even if they manage to develop a vaccine, long months will pass before it is distributed”. He said that the virus had made its way into Hungary from Iran, Italy and Israel. There is no global solution to prevent the epidemic, and each country must develop a protection strategy of their own, Orbán said, adding that “it was like that when we had the economic and immigration crises, and at the times of the floods”. The Hungarian government is in close communication with its neighbours and with all other European Union members, but “we must pass the crucial decisions”, Orbán said. Cooperation with Austria, a country bordering Italy, is especially important, and the Hungarian government is bent on adapting Austrian measures, Orbán said.
“We have been in many difficult situations… and learnt that no matter how big the danger is, we have the best chances if we cooperate,” Orbán said, and called for joint action and cooperation within the nation. “We need the broadest possible cooperation.”
Featured photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI