Hungary’s opposition parties have various plans and suggestions for the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions. They are all unsatisfied with the governing Fidesz party’s approach to the pandemic, and think it is time to gradually lift restrictions in a controlled manner.
Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, announced last Friday that a two-step reopening can be expected to begin first in March, then in April. The restrictions will be lifted if the rates of infection allow for it.
Far-right party Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) considers themselves the only anti-lockdown party and have even started the Mi Nyitnánk (We Would Open) campaign.
The party argues that the complete closure of places of entertainment, catering businesses, gyms, public swimming pools, and libraries is pointless, especially when people are crowding large malls. The 8pm curfew also bothers them, as well as the allowance of allegedly pro-government casinos to remain open.
Their “We Would Open” campaign is a protest to what László Toroczkai, the party’s leader, calls the double standard that casinos can remain open while catering businesses must stay closed.
They were actively involved in the recent protests at Heroes’ Square against coronavirus restrictions. While a few hundred people attended the two-day demonstrations, the planned mass reopening of restaurants did not occur.
Toroczkai even announced that Mi Hazánk is ready to stand at the forefront of protests, demonstrations, and civil disobedience if the government does not act on lockdown issues soon.
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Far-right party Jobbik advocates for the reopening of terraces as well as the gradual reopening of catering businesses and gyms.
Jobbik has also demanded the government to either provide wage support for those who lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to them, the government should establish a fund to pay four-fifths of wages lost due to the pandemic.
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The centrist Momentum Movement initiated the “Let’s Reopen Hungary!” program, advocating for the extension of the national curfew to 10pm, allowing stores to stay open until 9pm, opening outdoor restaurants and terraces, movies, theatres, and hotels in a controlled manner. As a “plus one” suggestion, they add that those who have been vaccinated should be free of all pandemic restrictions.
The party finds it pointless that people cannot sit outside at a café terrace wearing a mask, go for a walk at 9pm, and the 7pm closing hour forces everyone to shop at the same time after work.
István Ujhelyi, leader of socialist party MSZP, says the restrictions brought in effect last November were not thought through properly, arguing that it is now time to rethink them.
Catering businesses have lost their patience, and it is essential that a well thought-out approach be created as soon as possible, before people begin protesting, and coronavirus cases skyrocket.
Ujhelyi thinks that if businesses are willing to follow COVID protocols, their reopening is worth considering. With regards to the catering industry, he believes that the government should consult businesses, since there are likely many who would be willing to reopen with strict regulations.
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While their approaches and motivations may be different, all of Hungary’s opposition parties are advocating for the reopening of businesses, and a gradual return to normal life.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI