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War of Words between Gov’t and Mayor Reveals Conditions of Reopening Budapest

Péter Cseresnyés 2020.05.12.

Hungary loosened the national restrictions imposed to curb the Covid-19 epidemic a week ago. Due to the high number of coronavirus cases, this did not include Pest County and Budapest. The latest confrontation between the government and the opposition Mayor of Budapest, however, reveals new details about the requirements for the easing of restrictions.

The condition of reopening Budapest was the fall in the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the city’s elderly care homes, “where the virus is spreading the most,” Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communication and relations, said in a Facebook post on Monday.

Coronavirus: Karácsony to Turn Directly to Operative Board for Budapest Infection Figures

Kovács insisted that Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony had been tardy in taking measures to prepare the care homes for the epidemic, and this is the reason why Covid-19 is spreading the most in these places.

Kovács also posted graphics showing that so far, one hundred people have died after contracting coronavirus in care homes across the country, with 42 deaths in the Budapest-run Pesti Road facility alone. “We propose that the mayor concentrates his efforts on the elderly care homes operated by the municipality,” Kovács said.

In his response, the mayor of Budapest wrote that he hoped the Secretary of State would “say such nonsense of his own accord,” because if someone else “dictates this to Kovács,” then it is “a scandal.”

“Today, Secretary of State Kovács essentially acknowledged that the government determines whether to reopen Budapest on political and not professionally-based grounds.”

Talking about the government’s responsibility, Karácsony said it had been the government office of the capital that caused the current situation, which had banned the testing of patients leaving the hospital in March, calling it an “unnecessary expense.”

Karácsony concluded that the reopening of Budapest should be about the life and protection of the citizens of Budapest and not about the relationship between the government and the opposition.

Coronavirus: Mayors Call on Gov’t to Test Hospital Patients before Sending Back to Care Homes

Last week in a radio interview, Viktor Orbán also said that the easing of restrictions in Budapest and Pest County required the reduction of the number of cases and the proportion of deaths there.

These statements, as liberal news portal 444.hu reports, are somewhat contradicted by the fact that the main reason for the fewer active coronavirus cases in Hungary, is that since last Monday, the numbers are declining in Budapest and Pest County. Meanwhile, it is increasing (although at a minimal rate) in other parts of the country where the lock-down measures have already been loosened.

Featured photo by Márton Mónus/MTI