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PM Orbán: Gov’t Not Responsible for Spread of Coronavirus

Fanni Kaszás 2020.12.15.

Before Monday’s sitting of the National Assembly, opposition members asked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questions ahead of the agenda, including ones on the management of the epidemic situation by the government, as well as coronavirus testing. According to the Socialist representative Zita Gurmai, Fidesz ruined the peace of Christmas because they let the epidemic situation run free. However, according to the prime minister, despite the opposition trying to attack the government, it is a ridiculous suggestion that he would be responsible for the spread of the epidemic.

During the questioning, a Socialist (MSZP) representative and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán argued for minutes about the government’s epidemic response. According to Zita Gurmai, Fidesz ruined the peace of Christmas because they let the epidemic run free. The politician said if the government had tested people en masse and given 100 percent sick pay to those who contracted the coronavirus, everyone would now know who should stay home and who could celebrate Christmas in company. The MP also called on the government to set up thousands of test points in the country before Christmas to find out who contracted the coronavirus. The politician said that her proposal would increase the peace of the population and slow down the epidemic.

MSZP MP Zita Gurmai. Photo by Attila Kovács/MTI

PM Orbán began his response by saying that although he is often the one to communicate the new restrictions and he and his cabinet chief Antal Rogán regularly attend the meetings where the decisions are born, all decisions about defense are made by the operative board. He added that the decision to when, where, and who they test, is not a political decision. Epidemic experts and physicians all have a word in the decision-making and they help the operative board and the government to make the right decisions. Orbán added that in his view, Hungary is doing well in terms of testing in Europe.

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Then the Prime Minister spoke about the relationship between the epidemic and government responsibility. He said: “Believe me, people do not get sick in Hungary, and their condition does not turn into a crisis because doctors or nurses would not do their job. You constantly give the impression that Hungarian healthcare workers would be the ones responsible for sick people and for not being able to cure everyone. It is a disrespect to the work of those who do nothing all day but try to save the lives of those who have contracted the disease.”

He added that despite the opposition constantly trying to attack the government, the government has no responsibility in this matter. The Prime Minister said that the government has one job: to make sure there are “…enough ventilators, to have enough doctors and nurses, to have hospitals that can accommodate patients, and to have a vaccine as soon as possible. This is the responsibility of the government and we will do it.”

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Gurmai then responded that since Orbán had asked for and received full authorization from Parliament, he is responsible for the epidemic situation in the country. According to the opposition politician, it is appropriate for a prime minister to take responsibility, especially if he has caused harm.

Orbán ironically thanked Gurmai for her ‘restrained criticism,’ and added that she “could have even said that we are responsible for the spread of the epidemic in Germany. Or let’s say that even in Austria and throughout Europe, the spread of the epidemic is the responsibility of the Hungarian government.” The Prime Minister then added that “Forgive me for saying this, but it’s ridiculous.”

A bit later, the issue of 100% sick pay for those who contracted the coronavirus at work came up as well. Tamás Harangozó of the Socialist party asked the Prime Minister why they are unwilling to give 100 percent sick pay to those who are confirmed to be infected.

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The Prime Minister replied that those who are ill and go on sick pay will receive 60 percent of their salaries by default. However, if a person claims to have contracted the coronavirus at work, they can also receive the missing 40 percent in an administrative procedure. Orbán added in a later response that they are trying their best to speed up the process.

Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI