Hungary’s two-week lockdown from Monday will start “the last phase of the war against coronavirus”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Rádió on Friday morning.
The prime minister said that creches will stay open for the time being, unlike kindergartens, schools, and most shops. Florists will also be allowed to open on March 8, international women’s day, he added.
Orbán said he was certain that the lockdown would be “the home run” in the fight against the virus, adding that the government had “no other choice” than to introduce further restrictions after experts had warned of “disastrous” consequences unless they make the move.
“We must now lock down so we can reopen around Easter,” the prime minister said, adding that the government was waiting for voters’ feedback in a national survey concerning a gradual easing of restrictions.
According to the prime minister, services crucial for people’s daily routine such as grocery stores and shops selling tools for “spring gardening” will stay open, but “everything else” including restaurants, casinos, hotels, and shops selling electronics or entertainment will stay closed.
Orbán said that wage subsidies and tax benefits currently offered to tourism-related business would be extended to other sectors impacted by the new restrictions. Tenants in municipally- and state-owned properties will be exempted from paying rents for the whole month of March, he added.
Concerning Hungary’s coronavirus statistics, Orbán said that the average age of those that had died was 75.5 years, and warned that the elderly continued to be a high-risk group. Currently there are nearly 6,900 people in hospital with Covid-19, he said, but added that “the number could rise as high as 15,000 or even 20,000”.
Hospital beds, ventilators and hospital staff are needed to handle the situation, Orbán said. In addition to utilising domestic reserves, staff will be ordered to move between hospitals if necessary and resident doctors, medical students in the final year and private health sector staff will also be expected to get involved in the efforts, he added.
“There will be enough beds, enough ventilators and enough staff,” he said.
Commenting on travel, Orbán asked people to postpone “luxury vacations planned to dangerous locations” because these carry the risk of importing new virus variants which could endanger other people.
Orbán said good progress was being made with the national vaccination drive, with 862,953 people having received their first shot. A total of 2,813,668 persons have registered for vaccination by Friday morning, he added.
Orbán projected that 2.4 million people will be inoculated by the first week of April, 4.7 million by early May and over 8 million by early July.
Commenting on vaccine shipments, he said the Chinese shipments were arriving on schedule, there have been slight delays in Russian shipments and EU orders were unreliable. He said it was impossible to enforce the vaccine purchase agreements signed by the European Commission.
There will be a shift in the vaccination drive from GPs who personally know their patients to mass vaccination, Orbán said. He added that there were some technical problems involved, including cases of vaccinated people being called again for inoculation or some called to vaccination points far away from their place of residence. A decision has been made to stop this system for a review and an operative body has been set up to correct problems. A telephone line has been set up where people can report any problems they experience with the vaccination drive and get personal advice, he said.
Commenting on the behaviour of the Hungarian political Left, Orbán said they were fighting against the government rather than against the virus and they represent Brussels in Hungary.
Featured photo by Zoltán Fischer/PM’s Press Office