Operative board: Epidemic has slowed down

Efforts against the novel coronavirus epidemic will cost “several hundred billion forints”, but those resources are available from central coffers, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told his regular news conference on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyas said that the situation in Hungary was not nearly as bad as in most countries of Europe because the government had taken all necessary measures much earlier. He added, however, that the number of those infected could increase in leaps and bounds in the next days and weeks. He said that all conditions were in place to control the epidemic and the health-care system was prepared to handle “the highest possible number” of patients. Gulyas thanked health-care and law-enforcement staff, adding that the success of preventative measures depended on their efforts.

Hungary currently has 2,500 respirators, and the government is bent on increasing that number, he said, adding that the government is in the process of purchasing equipment from abroad, but he noted uncertainties around deliveries.

Concerning the economy, Gulyas said the government was working to ensure the functioning of the economy and to save jobs. He noted a recently introduced moratorium on consumer and business debt servicing and a ban on increasing loan repayments from next year. He said the money left with households would help the economy survive.

Answering a question about criticism of the government’s virus response, Gulyas said, “Hungary is grateful for any help from the EU, but the community is not providing a substantial amount”. Any hindering of efforts by EU member states to combat the virus is “unacceptable”, he said, referring to “a political attack against the Hungarian government at a time when cooperation is needed across the whole EU.”

Hungary has successfully managed to slow down the spread of novel coronavirus compared with other countries in the region, a leader of the central team coordinating efforts against the epidemic told an online press conference on Thursday. Tibor Lakatos said that the positive trend was the result of government measures and people taking restrictions seriously. There are 60-70 percent fewer people in public spaces than usual, he added.

Chief medical officer Cecilia Muller told the online press conference in response to a question that virus transmission was higher in densely populated areas, but the whole of the country was affected, she said, adding that there were no particular geographical hotspots. More restrictive measures will be introduced if mass outbreaks are reported, but hygiene regulations remain unchanged and must be observed, she said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hungary has reached 261, the government website koronavirus.gov.hu said on Thursday morning. The number of deaths remained ten. Of the 261 confirmed cases, 10 are Iranian, 2 are British, one is Kazakh, another Vietnamese, and the remaining 247 are Hungarian, it said. The number of full recoveries has gone up to 28 from 21. Fully 100 people are in quarantine and a total of 8,005 test samples have been taken.

In short

  • Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, not to hinder Hungary’s efforts to contain the novel coronavirus epidemic, the prime minister’s press chief told MTI on Thursday morning. The secretary-general criticised Hungary’s legislation concerning the coronavirus-related state of emergency.
  • The ruling Fidesz party and its government should cooperate with the opposition rather than “sowing divisions”, opposition Socialist deputy group leader Tamas Harangozo told an online press conference. The government should accept the opposition’s offer of “extremely broad government powers but limited to a certain period”, Harangozo said. In reaction, ruling Fidesz said the government’s epidemic response bill was key to mounting a rapid and effective defence against the pandemic. “It seems the opposition has still not grasped the need for cooperation in protecting Hungarians from the epidemic,” the statement said.
  • The unimpeded movement of goods and citizens returning home must be secured within the European Union during the crisis caused by novel coronavirus, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia.
  • The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has called on the government to distribute face masks to all Hungarian citizens free of charge during the novel coronavirus epidemic.
  • The opposition Parbeszed party is submitting a bill to parliament aimed at obliging the government to provide “open and straightforward” information to the public in times of an emergency.
  • More than two-thirds of Hungarians support the government bill submitted to parliament on coronavirus protection and extending the state of emergency, according to a survey by the Szazadveg Foundation. Szazadveg conducted the survey after opposition parties voted against the bill earlier this week arguing that it fails to contain a time limit for maintaining the state of emergency.

Source and photo: MTI

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