Coronavirus-related restrictions could be eased when the number of vaccinated Hungarians reaches 2.5 million, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public Kossuth Radio on Friday morning.
Current restrictions will remain in place unchanged for at least one more week from Monday, the prime minister said. He added that the decision had been made for one week only, because “much could change in a week”. He also said that Easter could be a risky period because the spread of the epidemic was linked to the number of contacts people made.
Increasing the number of vaccinations is the most important means of protection, he said. Currently four or five times as many people get vaccinated every week as the number of new infections, he added.
Orbán said the vaccination roll-out must be quick and this requires access to vaccines.
Since 500,000 fewer doses of AstraZeneca vaccines are scheduled to arrive over the next two months than originally agreed, the same amount of Eastern vaccines need to be acquired in order to maintain the original vaccination schedule, Orbán said. Talks are under way and chances are good that the missing AstraZeneca vaccines can be replaced with Chinese and Russian jabs, he added.
Orbán noted that the third wave of the epidemic was breaking records with 213 people dying on Thursday alone and 1,174 hospitalised Covid patients on ventilators, and said that “this is not the moment to ease restrictions”. Hungarian hospitals have a total 1,618 beds equipped with ventilators and nearly another 11,000 free beds, he said. He added that he had met hospital directors, who were “skilled and experienced people” and concluded that all facilities were “under firm control”. “Everybody has problems but those will be resolved with central assistance,” Orbán said.
Most resident doctors have been inoculated and assigned to hospitals, while medical students in their final year will be next in the order of vaccination, Orbán said.
Further restrictions would cause too much difficulty for the country, Orbán said, and encouraged families and entrepreneurs to “hold on”, and pledged that once the economy restarts, “next year could be strong and abundant”. Reopening could be gradual, its phases aligned with the number of people vaccinated against the virus, he said.
The number of people inoculated could exceed 1.5 million on Friday, Orbán said, adding that 260,000 vaccination certificates had been issued so far. “Together with those who have been certified as recovered from Covid, two million people are now officially immune,” he said. He also suggested that “in certain phases of re-opening” holders of immunity certificates could use more services than others.
Orbán called on the left wing to “stop their anti-vaxxer campaign because it poses a risk on people’s lives”
Had the contracts signed by the EU with vaccine manufacturers been allowed to become public, people could see the order of procurements, Orbán said. He added that he had regretted believing Brussels’ arguments when they said they would manage procurements faster and better than member states. After the migration crisis, this has been the second disappointment regarding EU policies, Orbán said.
“At the time, Hungary did not understand why Brussels was inviting migrants rather than stopping them at the border,” he said, adding that it demonstrated that the notion of nation states had not become outdated.
Orbán said Hungary was expecting Brussels to “supply vaccines rather than passport rules”.
“The whole of Europe is in a bad psychological state and the same applies to Hungary,” he said. A restart is needed and countries need to be reunified, which goes beyond the task of politicians and requires input by artists, churches and everyone, he added.
Orbán said Hungary did not suffer from a shortage of vaccination points but a shortage of vaccines. There is a plan for opening new vaccination points when this is needed. Efforts will be made to help out any GP who believes their surgery is not suitable for handling vaccinations, he said.
Commenting on ruling Fidesz quitting the European People’s Party, he said the first fractures in relations had appeared during the migration crisis. And there had been disputes even earlier, when Fidesz was not getting the EPP’s clear support for its public utility cut scheme and for imposing taxes on banks and multinationals, he added.
“There was a growing distance in terms of ideas and when the global crisis came, the people’s party introduced changes in its regulations instead of offering help,” he said. Orbán described this as “undeserved, absurd and unfeasible”, adding that under such circumstances “it is best to say good-bye”.
He said he was in touch with the prime minister of Poland and Italian minister Matteo Salvini and the three countries were trying to reorganise the European right wing, making common plans for the future.
Featured photo by Zoltán Fischer/PM’s Press Office