Unprecedented Times, Remarkable Actions
On March 23, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced further measures to ease the economic impact of efforts to contain the coronavirus, as outlined on page three (see “Pandemic Crisis Hits all Sectors”).
Szent László Kórház in Budapest has become ground zero for Hungary’s efforts to isolate and treat the COVID-19 coronavirus as the capital’s dedicated quarantine hospital. It is set to benefit from HUF 20 million in support from CIB Bank. Photo by Robin Marshall/BBJ
That built on initial measures announced by Hungary’s government on March 18. Among these were moratoriums on payment of principal, interest and fees on all corporate and retail loans until the end of the year.
In response, József Vida, president and CEO of the Savings Bank called for legislation to ensure that tax deadlines are extended to help the public and businesses, in an interview with novekedes.hu. Vida said massive fiscal and monetary interventions were needed to avoid further layoffs and corporate bankruptcies.
At the same time, the moratorium on loan repayments and other measures would place a heavy burden on financial institutions, he noted. Vida therefore emphasized that the regulatory burden on the banking system also needs to be reduced in order to have the energy and financial resources needed to restart businesses in the future.
Savings Bank was not the only lender in the news, however. CIB Bank announced it has provided HUF 20 million in immediate support for the purchase of medical equipment, including intensive beds, and disinfectants at Szent László Kórház, the dedicated COVID-19 isolation and specialist treatment hospital in Budapest, writes origo.hu.
The Italian-owned bank said it supports all government actions that help the Hungarian population and companies to overcome the difficulties caused by the coronavirus epidemic, and emphasized that it is following and acting in full compliance with legal requirements and will continue to do so in relation to the measures announced this week, pending further government decrees, origo.hu adds.
There was further good news for the healthcare sector when a consignment of medical supplies arrived from China. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on his Facebook page on March 24 that 70 tonnes of medical equipment had been shipped to Hungary, including more than three million masks, 100,000 articles of protective clothing, 100,000 pairs of gloves, 100,000 COVID-19 tests, and 86 ventilators.
The equipment was procured for the Semmelweis University by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and their rapid delivery made possible by close cooperation between Hungarian and Chinese organizations, authorities and companies, state news wire MTI reported.
Speaking in Parliament the day before (March 23), the prime minister had said that Hungary has ordered “huge batches” of protective gear “from the East”, with more than 10 planes expected to deliver medical supplies, MTI noted.
The challenging situation of medical personnel being unable to leave their workplace could be solved by the “Pihentesd a dokit!” (“Rest a doctor!”) initiative, MTI reported separately.
Centered for now in Budapest, but with a plan to expand into the countryside as well, the charity is focusing on providing healthcare workers who cannot go home for fear of being the transmitter of the coronavirus with an apartment close to their workplace so they can get some rest.
According to Mónika Berke, the person behind the idea, nearly 20 medical workers had already found an apartment just a couple of days after launch. The process of the sharing is very simple: after a brief inspection, the owner of the apartment is linked to the applicant, entering into free-of-charge contract. Any help and donations are welcomed by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond its generous donation to Szent László Kórház, CIB Bank announced that all its branches will operate reduced opening hours, typically closing at 1 p.m.
Others are taking a similar approach, reports azenpenzem.hu. Budapest Bank informed its clients on its website that it will permanently close two small branches as of April 30, and temporarily close another five.
K&H Bank will only receive customers in person if they arrive with an appointment that can be requested by phone or on the bank’s website.
Several branches of Erste Bank are temporarily closed, and UniCredit has reduced its opening hours uniformly, so its branches are currently open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., azenpenzem.hu adds.
Doing Their Bit
Several companies have been doing their bit to help others. Regional real estate developer Futureal Group, and its member firm Cordia, a residential real estate developer in Hungary, announced they will donate HUF 250 million to help fight the coronavirus epidemic, for an as yet to be decided cause, according to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal.
“In the current situation, we believe that it is our duty to support the fight against the epidemic,” said a representative of the companies, which are owned by the Futó family.
MOL Limo car sharing service, meanwhile, has said it is offering a HUF 20,000 discount to healthcare workers, along with five cars with a driver to the capital city to facilitate social welfare work, says portfolio.hu. MOL Limo had announced last week that it will offer a 30% discount to all users.
In addition, the company is waiving the registration fee and will reimburse the monthly user fee with a HUF 1,000 coupon. For personal hygiene, every MOL Limo vehicle has also been equipped with hand sanitizer and an antibacterial handkerchief dispenser, portfolio.hu adds.
With reporting by Bence Gaál, Robin Marshall, Nick Pongratz and Ekaterina Sidorina.
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