The government will launch a campaign to encourage residents to get inoculated against Covid-19, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told his weekly online press conference on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyás stressed that vaccination was provided on a voluntary basis, but urged that as many people as possible should register.
Exact figures are not yet available, but the number of people who have registered for coronavirus vaccination in Hungary has approached 1.5 million, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyás said that it would be desirable for significantly more registrations to be made, especially from those above the age of 60 and those with underlying conditions.
The head of the Prime Minister’s Office insisted that over 500,000 people a day could be inoculated if there was a sufficient supply of the vaccine. “It means that we could complete vaccination in two weeks if we had enough doses.”
Meanwhile, Gulyás said vaccination certificates would most probably guarantee a number of sensible benefits throughout Europe, such as exemption from quarantine in connection with air travel. The Hungarian government will wait and see whether uniform European regulations are introduced and will create national rules based on those, he said.
The minister added that all government members, including the prime minister, would get inoculated “in due course”. He said that the population was being vaccinated in a “clear order”, with health-care staff, the elderly in care homes, and then people older than 60 and with chronic illnesses receiving the shots.
Gulyás called it “irresponsible” that “several leftist politicians” were waging an “anti-vaccination campaign”. (Contrary to Gulyás’ claim, even the opposition politicians have started campaigning to convince skeptics that the vaccines are safe and encourage everyone to get inoculated.)
So far, 129,860 vaccine doses have arrived from the EU, and 91,600 people have received their shots, while the government has reserved 19.7 million doses via EU channels, Gulyás said. He added that Britain, Israel and China had been “more successful” in producing or obtaining the vaccine than the EU.
The government “uses all opportunity” to ensure that Hungary has sufficient supplies of the vaccine, Gulyás said, adding that there was a “good chance” to obtain the vaccine from China, too. He said that supplies via the European Union were slow, with weekly amounts received below 100,000 doses, and insisted that at that speed inoculating 3 million people would take about 30 weeks. “The government wants to leave behind an era of restrictions sooner than that, but it requires securing supplies from elsewhere,” he said.
In response to a question concerning whether Hungary had ordered any of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine which proved to be only 50 percent effective in Brazil, he said no orders had been placed but negotiations were ongoing with a broad range of suppliers. He said that among the Chinese vaccines, most likely Sinopharm would be purchased, which is reported to be around 80 percent effective — and even possibly above 90 percent, according to some sources. The government “has in fact agreed with (China’s) Sinopharm”, and receiving the first shipment of up to 1 million doses of their vaccine “only depends on the speed of Hungary’s licensing”, the minister added.
In response to a question about when private companies would be allowed to purchase vaccines — and asked to comment on a report that a company had promised vaccination for a 5,000 forint registration fee — he said that for the time being states were getting exclusive access to the vaccine. If any private company offers a coronavirus vaccine, it is most probably a “fake”, Gulyás said, and advised people aware of such advertisements to report them to the police.
Concerning the Covid-19 situation in Hungary, Gulyás said that the pandemic was being reined in, but warned that it could pick up again if restrictions were not observed. Restrictions could only be reduced if the number of active infections is “significantly” lower or vaccination of the population is as high as to guarantee that the most vulnerable can no longer be infected, he said.
Gulyás said that the government had reported demographic changes accurately: some 9,000 more people died in 2020 than a year earlier, “they were the ones that lost their lives to coronavirus”.
In another development, Gulyás said that Hungary was one of the “best performing” countries of Europe in terms of job protection. He argued that 4,000 more people were employed in December than in the same month of 2019, which proved the government’s economic measures.
Some 2.6 million families have used an opportunity to suspend their debt service, which represents a loan portfolio of a combined 3,600 billion forints (EUR 10bn). At the same time, 48 percent of Hungary’s firms have used a similar moratorium, representing a portfolio of 4,300 billion forints. He also noted that in sectors most impacted by the coronavirus crisis the government had volunteered to pay for two thirds of wages and wage-related costs, helping 69 percent of employees in catering and hotels, sports and entertainment.
In response to a question concerning what people should expect when planning their spring and summer holidays, he said every effort was being made to ensure the best possible outcome. Realistically, holidays should not be planned before the summer period, he said. However, if Hungary manages to acquire vaccines from sources outside the European Union, and current regulations continue to be respected, then a relaxation of restrictions may be possible earlier than the summer, he said, adding that under the current conditions, plans could not be made responsibly months ahead — only weeks ahead.
The minister said the government is in talks with representatives of various economic sectors on ways to reduce the damage caused by the epidemic. The tourism agency is currently in talks with gym owners, and it is open to consultations with festival organisers, Gulyás said, adding however that it was currently it was difficult to make responsible projections concerning summer festivals.
Featured photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI