Hungary cannot reopen its economy yet but chances are good that, ahead of most or all European Union countries, life could become free by the summer and “we will have a free summer”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Rádió on Friday morning.
There are realistic chances that kindergartens, schools and secondary schools can reopen on April 19, Orbán said.
He said the opening times of shops are planned to be extended in order to avoid long queues and the curfew will be adjusted accordingly. The operative board in charge of epidemic response is currently discussing the details of the regulations, Orbán added.
He said that rather than predicting when the third wave would peak, the main question was when the numbers would start decreasing, but “nobody can tell that”. Some 275 people died on Thursday, 11,823 were in hospital, including 1,480 on ventilators, he added. Orbán said there were 10,343 free beds and 1,693 ventilators still available.
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Some 500 volunteers have joined the protective efforts and 1,200 medical students are also at work, he said. So far, it has not been necessary to involve commuters who work mostly near Hungary’s western borders, he added.
Orbán said the most difficult weeks of the pandemic were under way and the third wave was caused by the British variant of the virus which is able to infect three times more people than previous variants. He asked young people to observe the regulations, not only in the interest of their parents and grandparents, but also because of their own safety.
Hungary would be able to administer more jabs but there is a shortage of vaccines, he said. The European Union summit which ended late on Thursday revealed that countries that have not ordered Eastern vaccines and rely on vaccines procured by Brussels only “are greatly behind us” in terms of their vaccination drive, he said.
Orbán said an increase in the availability of vaccines is expected in April and May.
It was a bad decision by EU prime ministers to allow Brussels to take over the procurement of vaccines from Western manufacturers, he said. Every country should have insisted on negotiating individually but they thought that sticking together would be more successful, he added. Brussels focused too much on the procurement price, which should have been of secondary importance as against protecting lives, Orbán said.
Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó warned the government in November that there could be problems with vaccine supplies and talks should be started with Russia and China, he said. Countries that start such talks now will have to stand in line, whereas Hungary has secured a good place in the front, he added.
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Orbán said 400,000 doses of vaccines were currently available, some 1.8 million people have been already vaccinated and 594,000 have also received their second jab. Some 250,000 Russian vaccines are still in store waiting for approval to be released and 517,000 doses are kept in reserve to be used for a second shot, he added.
Talks are under way about amending regulations for shops and changing to a system where one person will be allowed per ten square metre in every shop, he said.
He added that he insists that reopening cannot be allowed unless all registered persons above 65 get vaccinated. Some 71 percent of this age group have received their jabs so far and good progress is being made, he said.
The prime minister said pregnant women were advised to be inoculated using Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines and asked them to register for getting the jab.
Speaking about schools, Orbán said that all teachers and staff must be inoculated for a reopening, noting that 20,000 of those 102,000 who have registered so far already received their shots.
“The rest must also be vaccinated before schools are reopened, by April 10, so that schools, kindergartens and secondary schools could reopen April 19,” he said.
Hungary has vast vaccination capacity and GPs have been performing well in administering the jabs, Orbán said.
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“Everybody is tired, frustrated and can hardly wait to become free, which is why we aim to give people exact points of reference. In a modern democracy everybody is free to say whatever they like; but it is the chief medical officer and the government that are continually communicating credible information,” he said.
“We are going to have a free summer,” Orbán said, adding, however, that certain events may only be attended with an immunity certificate.
featured image via Viktor Orbán- Facebook