Gulyas: Restrictions to be extended for another week

The government is extending the timeframe of restrictions on movement introduced to combat the novel coronavirus epidemic for another week from Saturday, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office has said.

The cabinet will continue to review the regulation at its Wednesday meetings before determining whether restrictions can be eased or need to be tightened, Gergely Gulyas told an online press briefing. The public will be updated on the status of the restrictions during the regular government press briefings on Thursdays, he added.

Local mayors have again been given special authority for this coming weekend to impose their own restrictions in their municipalities, Gulyas said. He said the measures implemented by mayors for the Easter holidays had succeeded in preventing large gatherings.

Meanwhile, Gulyas said the government has so far spent 500 billion forints (EUR 1.4bn) on buying protective equipment and making other preparations in connection with the epidemic. He said the government would only be able to account for the protective gear it has procured once the equipment is delivered. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world on the markets where these supplies are sold, so we can only account for what we receive,” Gulyas said.

Concerning education, he said school-leaving exams will start on May 4 and will for the most part comprise written tests only. Only students who require exam scores for their higher education applications will be eligible to sit the exams, Gulyas, said, adding that this concerned 83,000 students. The exam will be organised over a period of around two weeks, Gulyas said. No more than ten students should take exams in the same classroom at any one time so that a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained between them, he said.

Answering a question, Gulyas said epidemic measures may last “for months”, adding that the number of cases after the first wave could rise again. The transmission rate has slowed down and the number of new cases each day is close to peaking, he said, adding however that “at present, unfortunately, we are not about to return to our old everyday routines”.

Addressing the issue of the government order to hospitals to vacate a proportion of their beds, he noted that beds may remain empty until they are repurposed to treat a coronavirus patient. It can take up to several weeks to install ventilators, he said, adding that professionals rather than politicians determined how many hospital beds were needed. Disruptions may result in the meantime, but the uptake of beds in Hungary is normally 67-68 percent, he said.

Meanwhile, Gulyas said the Hungary Helps international aid scheme will not be abandoned, though the funding pot will be smaller this year. He said the scheme was successful and the government intends to maintain it in the long run.

Asked about the issue of migration, Gulyas underlined the need to boost the protection of the EU’s external borders, arguing that there was no guarantee that Hungary would not find itself in a situation similar to the peak of the 2015 migration crisis once the epidemic subsides.

On another subject, Gulyas said most reports about Hungary in the western European media “make their way there via domestic political channels, using the interpretation of the opposition”.

Source and photo: MTI

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