The goal of the government is to maintain Hungary’s viability, Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated on Saturday evening in an interview given to the public service television news channel M1 in which he also asked people to observe the safety rules.
The direction of the present fight against the virus is as follows: Hungary must remain up and running, the prime minister said. Orban highlighted that based on the result of the national consultation, the Hungarian people expect the government, the prime minister, the health care system and those involved in the management of the economy to keep Hungary fully operational and to not allow the virus to paralyse the country and the Hungarian people’s everyday lives.
He said compared with the situation in the spring, he is somewhat more relaxed because he knows exactly what we are up against, because we now have the equipment necessary for the containment of the epidemic, and because he also knows what the people want.
I am not on my own fighting the flood, I have the support of one million eight hundred thousand people, the prime minister said, saying thank you to those who returned the national consultation questionnaires and designated the direction of defence.
We must pay attention to the living standards of families, and therefore the government will create the position of a minister without portfolio responsible for family affairs who will focus on families. The powers and opportunities of Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novak must be enhanced, she will be in charge of this work from 1 October.
Regarding the fact that on two consecutive days the number of new infections broke new records, Orban said we must prepare for this number to run even higher. During the second wave of the epidemic, we must pay attention primarily to the number of fatalities, and less attention to the number of incidences. At this time, the success of our containment effort can be measured in the number of fatalities and saved lives, he highlighted.
He said in the spring we needed a different battle plan. In the spring, in Hungary we ourselves were concerned whether the health care system would be capable of protecting the people. Now we know that it was capable of doing that job, for which we should be grateful to physicians, disease control experts, nurses, Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller and Minister of Human Capacities Miklos Kasler, the prime minister pointed out.
He underlined that at this time we have extensive experience, and we were able to prepare hospitals and companies manufacturing equipment necessary for the containment effort in health care for a second wave in the autumn.
He added that based on the national consultation, “we know exactly what the people expect, and this puts our minds at rest somewhat”. The people made it clear in the questionnaires that they do not want the country to come to a halt, they want it to remain up and running. According to Orban, it is the duty of the government to put together a defence plan which protects human lives, whilst keeping Hungary fully operational. This is possible, there is such a battle plan, we are adopting our decisions according to it, he stressed, adding that flexibility, capacity for action and the ability to respond swiftly are key.
He highlighted that they do not want to introduce curfews or restrictions on movement, they do not want to return to digital education. The government wants everything to continue as normal, including jobs, schools, and even sports, culture and the arts. They also want tourism and catering to work. Not as if nothing had happened, but viability can be maintained, he added, highlighting that this requires everyone to observe the relevant safety rules. He asked everyone to wear face masks everywhere they are required to, to observe social distancing, and to pay attention so that anyone who feels poorly should stay away from the company of others.
He said the government also decided on sanctions: if a person does not wear a face mask in a shop, both that person and the shop will be given a fine. In a second instance, the owner of the shop will be served with a warning, while the third time around the shop will be closed down. He observed that it is not that the state wants to “flex its muscles,” they are just asking everyone to act responsibly; if, however, the rules are not observed, they will have to be enforced. This should be done in the interest of the common good clearly, reasonably, as a request presented in a voice of cooperation, not harshly.
He said in the national consultation parents clearly asked the government to ensure that in September school can start in the normal order. If there is trouble, they should try to reorganise classes, and if isolation becomes necessary, classes should be isolated, rather than entire schools being closed down. He pointed out that in the spring schools had to be closed down in order to reduce the pressure on health care. As long as the number of fatalities does not start rising – and at present, it seems that we are able to protect the elderly – school restrictions are out of the question, Orban stressed.
He said all experts agree that people suffering from chronic diseases and the elderly are most at risk, and therefore we must pay special attention to their well-being. There is a disease control monitoring service, and if necessary, they will implement restrictive measures, he said.
According to Orban, also at present, there are some such measures on the agenda, but these are not about the restriction of our daily lives; they are more about whether bars and clubs should be required to close after 11.00 p.m. or how to enforce the wearing of face masks in shops and on public transport. In hospitals and elderly care homes they imposed visiting bans, parents are not allowed to enter schools, and from 1 October the necessary conditions will be available in all institutions to check children’s body temperatures.
He highlighted that with the containment effort in the spring, they saved thousands of lives, or more like around ten thousand elderly people’s lives, and also this time, they will not risk a single life; meanwhile, however, the country must remain up and running.
Regarding the health care system, he said there are more than ten thousand beds which can be placed at the disposal of patients from Saturday night if needs be, there are physicians and nurses to attend to patients – who can also be readily deployed – and there are protective equipment and ventilators. Hungarian health care is able to protect every single Hungarian life, he stressed.
Orban recalled that the government pledged to create as many jobs as were destroyed by the virus. Figures from March and now show that the government has delivered on its promise, and in actual fact, the number of jobs will continue to increase during the rest of the year. The government has invested a great deal of energy and money in launching investments; instead of becoming weaker, Hungarian businesses have been made stronger, he said.
According to the prime minister, there are serious problems in one area as tourism in Budapest relies almost one hundred per cent on foreigners, and it has now “collapsed”. The business model which hotels and restaurants in Budapest followed – that foreigners accounted for more than ninety per cent of guest nights – will not be tenable, not only this year, but next year either, he pointed out. In Budapest, there is a need for a change of business models, and taxi drivers, restaurants, hotels and in general workers in the tourism sector will have to be given specific help.
He stressed that the government is helping everyone; for instance, they have reduced taxes and contributions, and these measures also benefit those living in the capital, but we need a special programme. The prime minister said it is good news that the metropolitan municipality has more than a hundred billion forints at its disposal which it can use for this purpose.
He also said the government is in daily contact with the Visegrad countries, they set up a disease control consultation office during the Polish presidency in order to make this relationship even more robust. Therefore, it is always reasonable to create special rules for these countries, he highlighted. According to Orban, governments in Central Europe – not only in Hungary, but equally in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland – are able to protect the people. We protect the lives of elderly people, we accept that we must live together with a higher infection rate, at the same time, we maintain the viability of the economy and the country, and we help everyone to recover. If there is trouble, hospitals are at everyone’s disposal, he said.
He added that if everyone does their jobs in a calm and composed manner and observes the rules, we will protect the lives of the elderly, the living standards of families will not fall, and Hungary will remain up and running. This is possible, and the government’s battle plan is not only a chance, but a guarantee for this. At this time, the essence of this plan lies not in speed, but in a calm and composed, predictable government policy, the prime minister underlined.
In the interview, Orban stated that in addition to the management of the crisis, the government is also dealing with long-term affairs. He said there is a difference between the V4 countries and Central Europe and Western Europe. Countries in the latter are committed to building an open society in which borders have no significance, where migrants are let in, or even invited in, which envisage a mixed world and where people want to live together with populations coming from alien cultures. We in Central Europe do not want this, “we Hungarians want to remain a Christian Hungarian civilisation,” the prime minister stated.