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Coronavirus: Regular Testing of Essential Workers Starts on Friday, says PMO Head

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.11.19.

Hungary is set to begin testing certain essential workers for coronavirus on a regular basis from Friday, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office has said, adding that the staff of social care homes will be the first to be tested.

The government last week decided that health-care workers, teachers and staff members of social institutions will be tested on a regular basis, determined by the operative board responsible for handling the epidemic, Gulyás told a regular press briefing on Thursday.

Testing is scheduled to get under way in schools, kindergartens, creches and health-care institutions next Monday.

Testing will be voluntary, he added, emphasising that no one would be obliged to take the test. The government offices will be instrumental in organising the testing of 191,000 people in 15,000 venues, with the testing teams always including a medical student.

Concerning the official number of Covid tests carried out, Gulyás said the numbers on the government’s coronavirus website did not yet include antigen tests for technical reasons.

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Gulyás thanked health-care staff for their efforts, noting that the death-to-infection ratio has declined since the spring. The health-care system is ready to handle growing case numbers, he said.

Gulyás called it “unacceptable” that health-care workers treating Covid patients had not yet received their 50 percent pay rise, stressing that they were entitled to a higher salary.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office said there were 580 coronavirus patients in intensive care. Hungarian hospitals have around 1,700 intensive care beds, he said, adding that this number could be increased if necessary.

Asked what would happen to bodies if morgues became completely full, Gulyás said the operative board handling the epidemic had the situation under control. Funeral service providers appear to be handling the current situation well, he added.

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Regarding the coronavirus vaccine, Gulyás said Hungary has contracted altogether 12 million doses, costing 36 billion forints (EUR 99.6m), from three manufacturers. Fully 3,270,000 doses are contracted from British AstraZeneca, 4,360,000 doses from US company Janssen and 4,439,000 doses from Pfizer in addition to potential Chinese and Russian vaccine purchases now under negotiation, he said.

He said there were currently 7-8 coronavirus vaccines undergoing trials. Hungary is working to obtain “even the very first one” that becomes available so that it can begin carrying out its vaccination plan, he said, adding that innoculations would be voluntary and be made available to everyone free of charge.

The government has a duty to procure any vaccine that has been duly tested and proven to be effective as quickly as possible, and so it is in talks with “every entity” potentially able to provide it, including the EU, Israel, the US, China and Russia, he said.

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He said cancer patients needed to continue receiving regular treatment in spite of the epidemic. The only reason why chemotherapy sessions may be cancelled is because they would risk harming patients whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus, he added.

Asked about tax cuts, Gulyás said the Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce had put forward proposals on cutting or even eliminating the business tax, but without submitting anything to the government in writing. If the government implements a tax cut similar to the reduction of the VAT rate on take-out food, “we will let the public know,” Gulyas said.

Gulyás said the number of new infections was increasing along the Austrian border, and he asked commuters to exercise extreme caution.

Featured photo illustration by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI