Many people in Hungary want to know when they can expect the removal of restrictions and a national reopening of society, but government officials have not given a clear, cohesive answer. Meanwhile, there are suggestions for revitalizing the economy, which has been struggling due to restrictions. Medical Experts warn that absolute caution is currently the best approach.
Since coronavirus cases have been noticeably decreasing, there has been more pressure on the government to decide on legislation regarding the lifting of restrictions. Furthermore, the acquisition and authorization of various vaccines is making people especially hopeful that life will soon return to normal.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Kossuth Rádió on Friday that everyone above the age of 60 should receive the vaccine by March 15, and that if the Chinese vaccine is authorized as well, the total number of vaccinated individuals in Hungary should pass two million by April.
Officials Make Varying Statements Around National Reopening in Hungary
In terms of reopening, Orbán has not been entirely clear. During his Kossuth Rádió interview, he stated that the government would have an online national consultation regarding the subject between mid-February and the beginning of March.
Later that day, however, Head of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said that reopening will occur in two phases, the first likely to begin in March.
Slightly after Gulyás’ statement, Orbán announced that a one-step reopening could be expected for the beginning of March, but he repeated that a national consultation would take place first.
Meanwhile, Minister of Human Resources Miklós Kásler warned Hungarians in a Facebook post that the next few weeks will be a period of crucial patience. A patience which, he says, has been tested extensively over the past three months of restrictions. Kásler also emphasized that it is not the government’s intention to enact a sudden, careless reopening.
While the government has not completely contradicted itself, it does not appear to have made a clear decision, or a cohesive approach towards the lifting of restrictions.
The subject of reopening has been a popular topic for everyone, but it is especially important for businesses which have been struggling financially such as restaurants, cafés, and pubs.
Parragh Shares Plans of Revitalizing the Economy
According to László Parragh, president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), interest-free loans of up to 27,900 euros could help tens of thousands of small businesses, reports M1. Parragh’s target beneficiaries for such loans include catering and tourism businesses as well as others in the service sector such as taxi drivers and suppliers.
In terms of such businesses reopening, Parragh says there will be opportunities once at least 3-4 million people in Hungary are vaccinated. He believes that upon their reopening, the economy will get back on its feet quickly, and that we should be prepared for the sudden boom in tourism during the summer.
While a revitalization of the struggling economy is on the wish list of many businesses, medical experts warn that it is too early to make such plans.
Dr. János Szlávik Says Caution is Paramount
Dr. János Szlávik, head of South-Pest Hospital Center’s infectiology department, said that “the daily infection rate of roughly one thousand, and the daily death toll of around one hundred do not allow for any significant alleviations of restrictions.”
Szlávik believes more and more mutations of the virus will be discovered, and eventually the vaccines will need to be modified. He encourages the acceleration of vaccinations, since the elderly and the sick are the nation’s most vulnerable groups of people.
Szlávik was reassured however, that a recently published Lancet article proved the efficacy and safety of the Russian vaccine, which has recently completed its licensing in Hungary.
There is plenty of uncertainty around the question of reopening. While it may be frustrating not to have an exact date of when life will return to normal, it is a definite reassurance that coronavirus cases are not as serious as they previously were, and that the total number of vaccinations is steadily increasing.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Máthé/MTI