Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Friday called on Hungarians to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying vaccination was a matter of individual responsibility and protection, and that it saved lives.
Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio that more than 3.145 million Hungarians had already received their first jab and over 1.3 million received both.
Regarding the reopening of schools, Orbán said the issue divided the public because “parents always worry about their children the most”.
The decision to reopen kindergartens and grades 1-4 of elementary schools from April 19 was informed by the fact that the number of children in creches jumped in the past ten days, and the fact that the armed forces concluded disinfecting schools. Also, parents who want to continue to homeschool their children can turn to the school principals, he said. The decision whether they accept that as justified absence is in the principals’ hands, he added.
He said that 27 of the nearly 10,000 people in hospital were children aged under 14 and 2 of them were on ventilator.
Orbán called on teachers to “help restart the country” while recognising that restarting in-person education will not be easy.
He noted that fewer teachers have registered for the vaccine than was hoped for, but all those registered have been vaccinated.
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A total of 4.219 million people have registered for vaccination so far, he added.
He thanked the work of doctors, nurses and operational staff, saying the “situation is still very difficult in hospitals”.
Orbán noted a “misleading notion” spreading among the public that once 60-70 percent of Hungarians get vaccinated, the rest will not need the vaccine. “Nobody can get away” from the virus, he said, adding that only vaccination could give individuals protection and he described it as a life-saver.
He said the next six weeks would be decisive in the epidemic, adding that Hungary could double the number of people inoculated and will be therefore “out of the water” by the end of May or early June.
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Orbán said some 500,000 vaccines manufactured by Jonhsson and Jonhsson will have to be replaced, mainly with the Chinese Sinopharm. The Janssen vaccine will be examined in Hungary separately, “an unusual step as we so far accepted Western certificates and only examined Eastern vaccines.”
He slammed the opposition as the “only left-wing I have seen that pursues politics … directly leading to crisis and aims to draw out the pandemic and prolong the recovery process, and shake people’s belief in the government.”
He called it “devastating” that left-wing parties still have a proposal in parliament on scrapping the use of the Sinopharm vaccine. Had Hungary not used the Chinese vaccine, it would have inoculated about half as many as it has so far, he said.
Orbán said anti-vaccination voices had become louder in the leftist parties because if the government’s inoculation plan was successfully completed in six weeks, Hungary would be among the first three countries in the world to have vanquished the pandemic.
Currently, however, Hungary has to fight simultaneously against the “power-hungry Left” and the “multinational companies’ hunger for profit which shakes trust in the vaccines”, he said.
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On reopening restaurant terraces, slated for when Hungary passes the mark of 3.5 million inoculations, Orbán said “we will be getting back a very spectacular part of our former lives.” Fees for use of public places will be scrapped, along with red tape surrounding the permits for terraces, to encourage the hospitality industry to reopen, he said.
The 2022 budget will be the “budget of restarting the economy”, with both the 2021 and the 2022 budgets allocating 5,000 billion forints (EUR 13.9bn) to that goal, he said.
The government will stick to its promise to restart all jobs that have fallen victim to the pandemic, Orbán said. It will do more than that, he said. “We will have more jobs after the pandemic than we had before,” he pledged.
Featured photo illustration via Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page