It was recently reported that since the number of people vaccinated with the first jab has reached 2.5 million, Hungary can begin its reopening as of Wednesday. PM Viktor Orbán announced that among the first measures, the curfew will be shortened and shops and services will be able to reopen. While pro-government politicians welcomed the decision, the opposition was generally critical of the government’s approach.
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared that Hungary will begin its gradual reopening, as the country has reached 2.5 million first-jab vaccinations. Even though Hungary is still among the European countries most severely affected by the pandemic, and despite many Hungarian experts who have also raised their concerns over the plan, the government decided to stick with the approach. The reasoning behind the decision is based on the government’s belief that all registered people over the age of 65 are already vaccinated in Hungary.
Pro-government reactions to the reopening
Hajnalka Juhász, Vice-President of KDNP and Member of Parliament, welcomed the milestone of 2.5 million vaccinations and claimed that the strength of the unity of the Hungarian people is the way to restart the economy. She thanked the work of Hungarian doctors and nurses and highlighted how Hungary is on top of the list in terms of vaccination in Europe.
A magyar emberek összefogásának ereje a gazdaság újraindításához vezető út! 2,5…
Közzétette: Juhász Hajnalka – 2021. április 6., kedd
Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources, also reacted to the fact that 2.5 million vaccinations were administered so far in Hungary. He said that he was proud of his colleagues and also of healthcare workers who stood up in all circumstances.
I am convinced that this struggle and resistance is one of the greatest successes of Hungary after the regime change. In order to fulfill this success, I ask everyone to apply and take advantage of the possibility of vaccination”
Opposition reactions to the reopening
Gergely Karácsony, mayor of Budapest, said in reaction to the announcement that despite the new rules – which allow shops and services to reopen and people to stay outside until 10 p.m. – the number of deaths is still exceptionally high in proportion to the population. He said that as opposed to other countries, the Hungarian government decided to adjust the easing of restrictions based on the number of first vaccinations, not infection data or developed immunity. And “this experiment places a serious responsibility on the shoulders of all citizens.” Karácsony highlighted that the pandemic is sill not defeated, so he encourages all people to adhere to the rules, wear masks, wash their hands, and most importantly: register to be vaccinated.
Balázs Barkóczi, the spokesman of Democratic Coalition (DK), said in a statement that the prime minister, with the new announcement, has yet again failed to give an explanation for “the utterly poor performance” of his government in handling the pandemic crisis. “He failed to explain why Hungary has the world’s highest pandemic-related mortality number in proportion to the population, why elderly people do not have access to ventilator support, and which of the government’s decisions led to the death of several thousand Hungarians whose lives could have otherwise been saved.” Barkoczi said DK demands that any further pandemic operations should be managed by a body of independent experts.
In their joint statement, the co-leaders of the LMP, Erzsébet Schmuck and Máté Kanász-Nagy, believe that the extension of the opening hours of stores is only a correction of previous errors. They said that for its Tuesday decision, the government failed to take into account the number of new infection cases, the number of people treated in hospitals, and the number of fatalities. LMP also emphasized that their party calls on people to register to be vaccinated.
Ákos Hadházy, independent member of parliament, also commented on the PM’s announcement in a Facebook post. Hadházy draws a correlation between the date of reopening and the fact that Hungary was supposed to hand in plans to UEFA for the European Football Championship organized this summer in Budapest as well. He criticizes the government’s plan about reopening the country so that it can organize the football event in the summer. He also blames the government for scheduling the easing of restrictions based on the number of vaccinations and not fatalities and new cases per day.
According to Jobbik, the current epidemic situation would not justify the reopening of the country. They also emphasized the “strange coincidence” that reopening commenced the same day as the country handed in plans for the European Championship, despite many Hungarian experts having emphasized that 2.5 million vaccinations are far from enough to ease the restrictions. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin previously stated that only those cities that guarantee admission to a certain number of spectators can remain as hosts. Therefore, Jobbik also finds it an interesting coincidence that the schools are planned to be reopened on the day of UEFA’s final decision, April 19th, despite the fact that epidemiologists say this also involves huge risks.
Tímea Szabó, co-leader of Párbeszéd Magyarországért party (Dialogue for Hungary), argued in a Facebook post that Viktor Orbán deliberately misleads and thereby endangers people by talking about 2.5 million people in safety, because the reality is that 1 million people have been fully inoculated. Tímea Szabó further emphasized that even those who received their second dose would have to wait a few weeks in order to develop their immunity. She contends that the opening is not appropriate and people must continue to register for vaccinations, social distance, and wear masks.
In the featured photo: Jobbik leader Péter Jakab. Photo by Attila Kovács/MTI