Hungary is at the start of a long period of protective measures, and many methods will need to be applied in the fight against the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday, when he joined the regular press conference of the operative board.
In the West, there is now a shortage of equipment needed for protection against the virus, and help is only available from “the East”, where “we have secured huge stocks”, he said. Supplies will arrive continually and “more than ten aircraft are in service,” he said. Orban thanked health-care workers for their work so far and added that they “deserve respect from all of us”.
Regarding border protection measures, Orban said Hungary had an interest in maintaining friendly relations with its neighbours, “and so they can count on our help”.
Regarding economic measures to mitigate the epidemic’s impact, Orban said the first task was to forestall the slowdown of the economy, then take steps to “restart” it. On the moratorium on loan payments, which the government announced last week, Orban said the “banks will not be left to fend for themselves”, as the central bank will ensure their liquidity for 2020. Banks will have a “hard time”, but they will have to “pull their weight” in the relief efforts, he said. The priority in terms of economic measures will be to preserve jobs, Orban said, and to “find new ones for those who have lost theirs”. The situation is reminiscent of that after 2010, he said, and then “we managed to find a solution”.
Opposition votes against deviating from house rules
The Hungarian government will handle the crisis brought on by the new coronavirus epidemic even if the opposition does not vote to prolong the state of emergency, Orban said later in parliament ahead of the debate of the government’s epidemic response bill which has been slammed by opposition lawmakers who say the bill hands the government excessive powers.
Regarding the timeframe of a prolonged state of emergency rejected by the opposition, Orban said the government did not need a fixed time limit. Parliament, he said, would have the right to “call it quits” every day. If it passes the law, parliament will have the power to strip the government of its special powers any day, he said. Of the 90 day limit proposed by multiple opposition parties, Orban said the country “will be in worse shape in 90 days than it is now”. The protective measures put in place are aimed at slowing down the epidemic so that it does not overwhelm the health-care system, he said. The slower the epidemic spreads, the longer it takes to run its course, Orban said. “It will be a lot longer than three months.”
The measures taken so far are sufficient, Orban said. Although new steps will be necessary, “there is no need to underestimate the fact that we have left 3,600 billion forints [EUR 10.2bn] in people’s pockets,” he said.
Regarding schools, Orban said schools were not closed but were operating in the digital domain. Students, he added, would still have a chance to finish the academic year.
On the issue of ordering a curfew, Orban said the government was keeping that possibility on the agenda, even though a total curfew, he added, would probably be impossible to impose. Currently, Hungary is heeding the experiences of other countries, primarily Austria’s, he said.
The opposition voted against deviating from house rules, so the earliest the bill can be approved in a fast-tracked procedure will be in six days’ time. The proposal to deviate from house rules – which would have needed four-fifth majority to pass – was supported by 137 lawmakers from the ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat parties, national minority representatives and four MPs of the Mi Hazank party. Fully 52 lawmakers voted against, namely opposition Jobbik, Socialist, Democratic Coalition, LMP and Parbeszed lawmakers and four independents. The opposition said they voted against the bill because it does not contain a time limit for maintaining the state of emergency. The proposal to fast-track the bill, which needed two-thirds majority support to pass, was supported with 152 votes for and 31 against.
Source and photo: MTI