Hungary will procure a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and it will be made available to all Hungarians who want it, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said in an interview to commercial broadcaster TV2.
Orbán said that Hungary had successfully defeated the epidemic once and would do so again. In the pre-recorded interview broadcast on Sunday evening, Orbán said, “Brussels estimates the vaccine will be ready by 2021, while the Americans expected it to be ready by the end of the year”. “We’ll be free from this misery, and we will endure it until then,” Orbán said.
The Prime Minister said the country’s health-care system and economy would function.
We won’t retreat; we’ll preserve Hungary’s chance of coming out of this crisis fortified.”
Hungary is in ongoing talks with the US, Japan, China and Russia concerning a vaccine, and it has contributed to research programmes funded by the EU, he said. “Chances are not bad,” he said, adding that one of these “great centres of force” would be able to offer a vaccine to the world within a year.
Orbán noted the elderly continued to be at risk, as the epidemic was picking up again. There is great pressure on the health-care and education systems, and that pressure would remain high for “the next few months,” he said. Epidemic defence has to be developed so that people can accept it, Orbán said.
The government’s National Consultation survey served that end, and have shown that the people wanted to protect themselves but did not want the country to come to a standstill, Orbán said. “Hungary must function,” he said.
If health-care workers persevere, and if they manage to bear the growing psychological burden too, we will make it — we will succeed as we did in the spring”
He said that, hopefully, people would stick to the rules during the “cool autumn” more than they had done in the summer. Orbán said there were enough doctors and nurses and the necessary equipment — including beds, protective gear and ventilators — was at hand. The hospitals will be activated in a set order, he said, adding that, currently, the first eight hospitals had been assigned to participate in the protection efforts. Once they are full, the second tier will be activated, and so on, he said. Doctors and nurses will be deployed where they are needed the most, he said.
Hungary is monitoring developments in neighbouring countries, he said. “The only one I don’t understand is the Czech Republic: the numbers are off the scale there; we have to watch that,” Orbán said. The border closure is still necessary as it is instrumental in “cutting the transmission lines” of the epidemic, he said. “We’ll be free from this misery, and we will endure it until then,” Orbán said.
Orbán welcomed that the ratings agency Moody’s on Friday changed Hungary’s rating outlook from stable to positive. He added, however, that his single point of focus was preserving jobs. “If there is work, if there are jobs, there will be growth and good ratings,” he said. The government’s policy can be summed up in “tax cuts, investments and developments,” he added. If it comes to it, the state will also be able to hire people, he said, adding that while not optimal, it nevertheless provides households with opportunities “and puts bread on the table”. Traditional fostered job schemes are also a possibility; again far from ideal but “better than nothing”, Orbán said.
He said public wages would certainly have to be raised over the next year. The prime minister said more people are working in Hungary now than in January and March, with more than 4.5 million people in work. Ten years ago, he noted, when Fidesz took over the reins of government from the Socialists, 3.6 to 3.7 million people were in employment. People, he said, were sceptical that Fidesz’s jobs pledges could be achieved. Orbán added that the ultimate aim was for 5 million people in employment, “but that’s not a task for the coming months”. He said the real question was whether entrepreneurs would be able to create new and more competitive jobs.
Around the world, an upheaval is taking place in terms of the workforce, production and capacity relocations, he said, adding that Hungary had to enter the fray. On the subject of the capital city, Orbán said foreigners were key to the success or otherwise of Budapest‘s business model in hospitality and tourism. Fully 93 percent of visitors booking a hotel here are foreign, compared with 50-60 percent in Rome or Paris. Budapest, he added, does not have a strategy for luring Hungarians to the capital and persuading them to spend a weekend. This business model, he said, must change even if life returns to normal. Meanwhile, the prime minister noted that thanks to the moratorium on paying off debt and reduced business taxes, around 2,000 billion forints had remained with families and businesses. “The government has done what it can in the countryside and in Budapest,” he said.
Featured photo illustration by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI