The “first battle” against the novel coronavirus has been won in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview on Friday. Orban told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio that the virus had been contained.
“We’ve managed to develop methods of control and gain time,” he said, adding that the health-care system had successfully prepared itself to handle the crisis. The prime minister noted, however, that the virus had not yet been eliminated in Hungary. “We’ve just prepared to ward off the next attack,” he said, citing expert opinion that a second wave was expected around October-November.
The prime minister said rules for protecting the elderly must be upheld in the next phase of restrictions, and special rules would be needed for Budapest and Pest County. Restrictions will be maintained in the heart of the country, but rules will be eased elsewhere, he said. He added that if the death rate in Budapest fell, the government would not hesitate to allow residents of the capital to resume a normal life.
The easing of restrictions will take place gradually and according to a strict timetable, he said, noting that the government is closely following experiences in Austria and the Czech Republic as guidance.
Orban insisted that new powers handed to the government by parliament did not give it special rights but allowed the cabinet to act swiftly. He said decisions would be made every two weeks during which the effect of changes could be assessed.
Addressing international criticism of the government in relation to its enhanced powers during the state of emergency, Orban said he had been certain that once it became clear that the outbreak of the virus could not be contained, “proposals from financial speculators” for crisis financing would be forthcoming, and the very beneficiaries would be the financial investors themselves. “I would have been highly surprised had one of the most talented sons of our country, George Soros, not appeared among these investors,” he said.
He said first of all a “Soros plan” on migration had been published, and his “second plan” had been hatched in connection with the epidemic, promising huge profits for financial investors with minimal risk. Accordingly, Hungary, he said, would be attacked and accused of employing dictatorial methods as a way to neutralise Hungary’s objections to the speculators’ plan. But a close reading of Hungary’s law by a top European Union official found nothing objectionable from the point of view of EU law and traditions, he said, adding that apologies to Hungary should have been streaming in but weren’t.
Orban said the bridge to the country’s liberals was “Soros’s network”. Liberals, he said, “clutch the umbilical cord that George Soros pumps life fluids into”.
Commenting on the economic situation, he said the picture was “not encouraging”. As was the case in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 economic crisis, however, jobs were now the most important consideration, he said, adding that as many jobs would be created as were destroyed by the virus.
The prime minister noted that jobless benefits lasted for 3 months. He conceded that income subsidies were not sufficient to make a living on. But the government, he added, offered paid training and public works. And state-owned companies would be able to increase headcount for certain kinds of jobs, he said.
Addressing the issue of a statement by Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, who accused the opposition Social Democrats of “handing Transylvania to the Hungarians”, Orban said Iohannis had always struck him as a respectable man who stood by his principles, “so Hungary respects Romania and its president”. But at the same time, he said he had observed developments there with consternation, since “we did not hear such statements from Romania even during the worst anti-democratic, turbulent periods”.
He said he would adopt a wait-and-see stance for the time being, adding that Hungary was ready to “put the gloves on” if necessary. But for now it was unclear whether the president’s remark was a provocation, an “accident”, or the first salvo as part of a longer-term Romanian national strategy. Hungary in the meantime will strive for good neighbourly relations, he said.
Source and photo: MTI