In the national consultation on the initial experiences of the coronavirus epidemic, the people made it clear that Hungary must remain up and running, we cannot allow the virus to bring the country to a halt again, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday on Kossuth Radio’s programme ‘Good morning, Hungary’.
The prime minister stressed that the cabinet has a battle plan for the fight against the second wave of the epidemic which relies primarily on the results of the national consultation and the projections of various experts.
He pointed out that the government is preparing for the very opposite of the stringent restrictions that could be observed during the first wave of the epidemic, whilst naturally seeking to protect the lives of the elderly. “At this time, the goal is not for everyone to stay at home and to bring the country to a halt; the goal is to protect Hungary’s viability,” Orban said.
The prime minister said the entire Hungarian population passed the test with flying colours during the first wave of the epidemic when one could observe discipline, unity, a sense of responsibility and mutual help on the part of the people. “I have every reason to state that there was nationwide cooperation,” he added.
He highlighted that the first and second waves of the epidemic are different in several respects. At the same time, the virus poses the greatest threat to the elderly, and therefore we must continue to take very good care of them; elderly care homes remain particularly at risk.
The prime minister therefore asked the mayor of Budapest to do his job “with due seriousness” in the institutions falling within his competence and responsibility, including the Kamaraerdo elderly care home, instead of “sending politically motivated messages”. “We shouldn’t experiment; this is not like marking bicycle lanes on road surfaces which either work or they don’t,” he said.
He stressed that in the coming weeks the government will adopt disease control measures as well as measures seeking to achieve a more significant economic growth in quick succession. The Operational Group will meet early Saturday morning, while the economic cabinet has been convened for Saturday morning, the prime minister said, recalling that on Friday he is meeting with the leaders of the V4 countries in the interest of creating a coordination mechanism in connection with the pandemic.
Orban underlined that there will be no general restrictions in education, and upon the emergence of the epidemic, rather than immediately closing down the institutions concerned, they will seek to isolate the infected. Entire schools can only be closed down if the isolation of one class or another does not help. However, also in this eventuality teaching in schools can only be suspended in such a way that meanwhile they will have to take care of the supervision of healthy children so that parents can continue their normal lives.
He confirmed that the government had sealed elderly care homes and hospitals in the interest of protecting the elderly, and visiting bans will have to be enforced, if necessary, even via police action.
The prime minister said should the need arise, the wearing of face masks will have to be extended, upon entry into schools the body temperature of children and staff will have to be checked, while everyone will have access to vaccination against the flu free of charge. He indicated that within a short time they intend to fix an official price for coronavirus tests.
Orban highlighted that in the next few days they will break down into practical measures the government’s battle plan with which they would like to achieve the coming into being of new jobs, pay rises and investments. “I will again join the ranks of the Facebook hussars, and will check in on Facebook more often, explaining one decision or another to members of the public,” he said.
He recalled that the government would like to create as many jobs as were wiped out by the virus, and in response to the cabinet’s measures, today more people have jobs than in January.
He said, thanks to the cabinet’s measures, this year domestic tourism has done better than ever before. However, tourism in Budapest which mostly relies on foreign tourists “has collapsed”. Due to this, the metropolitan municipality should use around HUF 50 to 60 billion from the savings worth more than HUF 100 billion which previous Mayor of Budapest Istvan Tarlos accumulated, he added.
According to the prime minister, “Brussels bureaucrats” quite evidently responded nervously to the fact that Hungary partially closed down its borders, but in his view, they will adopt the Hungarian rules once again “as they tend to”.
He said he sincerely hopes that in the present pan-European trouble they will be able to forge a safe Central European island within which movement and a common life will be guaranteed with the Slovaks, Czechs and Polish.
Orban also mentioned that on Thursday evening he was in his kitchen when President of the United States Donald Trump phoned him, with whom he spoke at length about the fight against the pandemic, the presidential election and a number of other issues concerning US-Hungarian cooperation.
He said the US President maintains positively close, amicable relations with the leaders of Eastern European countries because what he stands for is good for Central Europe. “The same as with the German Chancellor,” Orban pointed out, mentioning that he is rooting for Mr Trump’s re-election.
The prime minister observed that if it was not for the pandemic, China-Europe cooperation would be one of the “hot topics” of politics as the world is changing, “the United States no longer sits alone on its throne”. Instead, a more complex geopolitical situation has developed in which Europe would not like to find itself trapped between the United States and China.