We will reach yet another threshold in the fight against the epidemic, from Saturday, the curfew will begin at midnight, while shops and catering establishments will be allowed to remain open until 11.00 p.m., Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Kossuth Radio’s programme ‘Good morning, Hungary’ on Friday.
The prime minister said the interior premises of catering establishments, hotels, leisure time facilities, zoos, museums, theatres, fitness centres and sports events will open to immunity certificate holders, and minors accompanied by relatives will also be allowed to frequent these venues.
By Thursday evening, more than 3.91 million people received the vaccine, and so on Friday the number of inoculated persons will definitely reach four million. As a result, the new rules can take effect on Saturday, the prime minister stated.
The inoculation of young people aged between 16 and 18 with the Pfizer vaccine will start after the final examinations, after 10 May, the PM said. He indicated that from Saturday the Pfizer vaccines will have to be reserved for students. Today people can still be inoculated with this vaccine if they want to, but next time they will only have the opportunity to do so in several weeks’ time.
There are so many vaccines in Hungary that on the whole they are enough for everyone who wants to have themselves vaccinated. At this point, it is only up to the people to have themselves vaccinated, Orban stressed.
He pointed out that the epidemic is not over yet, and so we must act responsibly.
The vaccine is like a bulletproof vest: the bullet bounces off those who have been vaccinated, he said.
He recalled that the people had been asked in the national consultation, and 65 per cent of respondents said it is justified to make a distinction between those who hold immunity certificates and those who do not. Additionally, among the adult population the number of people with immunity outnumber those who do not, and we must adjust to the majority, he argued. He said they found the constitutional concerns that had been raised unjustified.
The government has authorised the head of the ministry of foreign affairs to conclude bilateral agreements “with countries that are important for us” about the mutual recognition of one another’s immunity certificates. Such agreements have already been concluded with Montenegro and Serbia, and they are negotiating with other countries as well. People will be able to travel with the Hungarian immunity certificate anywhere, he stated, adding that rumours have spread that those inoculated with the Chinese vaccine will not be able to travel during the summer. This is “silly,” however.
Regarding the fact that sports events can be held, but wedding receptions are not yet allowed, Orban said they do not want to split into two the wedding party where people with immunity mix with people without immunity.
On Thursday, they also discussed the issue of anglers because they discovered that the ban on fishing for pike-perch and asp will come to an end shortly. These species are fished for at night, and so from Saturday angling will also be allowed beyond midnight.
He said he does not know whether the next stage of reopening will be at 4.5 or 5 million vaccinated persons. He indicated that when it comes to deadlines, including the deadlines for the submission of tax returns, people are inclined to “charge” at the last minute. We are experiencing something similar also in the case of vaccination. When people have the feeling that the situation is improving, they display less haste in having themselves vaccinated. He stressed that there are now more vaccines available than people wanting them. This is something we should be proud of because Hungary is the only such state in Europe.
According to their own research result, while 71 per cent of supporters of the government are willing to have themselves inoculated, this ratio is only 59 per cent among the voters of the Left. The Left are anti-vaccination, and this has its tangible result, he stated. He asked the supporters of the Left to not listen to the anti-vaccination campaign. Vaccination is a national cause, he underlined.
The Prime Minister is happy to see life returning to normal, and that now issues other than the coronavirus pandemic, including the transformation of universities, attract the attention of the public. He took the view that in Hungary the system of higher education is extremely inflexible. While earlier we were proud of our universities, today we have less reason to be. There is more potential in higher education than what it is managing at present, he said.
All the world’s best universities operate in the form of flexible, non-state-owned foundations, he stated. Earlier, the government selected a few universities for reform, and once it became clear that the changes had brought about positive outcomes, other universities volunteered to operate in the new form. Universities have never before received so much money in the form of grants than they are now, said Orban who expects much from the reforms.
He observed that in other parts of the world, foundations had been set up by universities as part of a more integral process. In Hungary, however, we did not have this good fortune because the communists nationalised them all. If they had not come about, universities would be in better shape. At the same time, the assets of universities will only be available for educational purposes, not even governments will be able to “mess” universities about, he stated.
The attack of the Left on the reforms is of a political nature, not a professional debate, he stressed. The Left are “an international formation” in Hungary, while universities are national institutions, and the government does not want them to become global, he added.
He observed that grants are “never enough,” those who receive them will always say that they could have been given more. He stated that the government is providing sufficient support for the restarting of the economy. However, this in itself is not enough for success, we must work hard for it, and those whose establishments had been closed for a long time will have to overcome significant hurdles. This is why the government has extended the period of furlough grants, and this is why it is providing investment grants, he explained.
He said they will shortly set up an operational group for the restarting of the economy, and the 2022 budget, too, has been put together in the spirit of recovery and restarting. At the same time, he is also fighting to ensure that the elderly receive a 13th monthly pension again, and those under the age of 26 be given tax exemption.
On the occasion of Mothers’ Day, Orban said what Hungarian women have done in the past year merits the greatest respect.