Politicians Argue Over Lifting Restrictions as More Vaccines Arrive

In Hungary

Hungary’s government will extend pandemic restrictions now in place until March 1, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, said at a weekly press briefing on January 28.

Gulyás said the government agreed with experts that “any easing” of restrictions would bring a new wave of infections and lead to stricter measures.

However, several opposition parties have expressed discontent with the government’s plan to ease restrictions, and have suggested roadmaps of their own. One such from the centrist Momentum Movement includes extending the start of the curfew to 10 p.m., allowing shops to remain open until 9 p.m., partially opening outdoor restaurants and terraces to 50% capacity, allowing domestic tourism and exempting those who are vaccinated from all restrictions, according to news website Magyar Hang (Hungarian Voice).

The combined number of Hungarians who have been inoculated against the coronavirus and those who have been registered as recovering from COVID-19 will reach one million by early March, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his weekly interview on Kossuth Rádió on February 5.

During his interview the week prior, the Prime Minister had said that the inoculation of healthcare workers had been completed and the inoculation of nursing home residents and staff would finish by January 31, also noting that vaccination on the basis of registration would start from the beginning of the following week, according to the established order that gives the elderly and those with chronic illnesses priority.

By early April, Orbán said, the number of inoculated people and the number of those who can certify recovery from COVID-19 in the previous six months “will approach two million,” and if the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine can be used, that number “will exceed 2 million.”

Hungary’s National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) has approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm, the country’s chief medical officer Dr. Cecília Müller said at a daily press briefing on January 29, according to official government website koronavirus.gov.hu.

That same day, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced in a post on Facebook that Hungary would buy five million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, enough to inoculate 2.5 million people. The deliveries of the vaccine will take place in four phases over four months, he said.

Sputnik Lands

The first delivery of an order of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Hungary on February 2, Szijjártó also announced via his Facebook page. Szijjártó noted that under an agreement reached with Moscow, Hungary will get two million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate one million people, over three months. He said the shipment contained 40,000 ampoules, enough to inoculate 20,000 people.

Inoculation against the coronavirus using the Sputnik V vaccine started in Budapest on Monday, February 8, Hungary’s chief medical officer Dr. Cecília Müller said at a daily press briefing the following day, according to koronavirus.gov.hu.

Müller said 560 GPs in the capital would each be asked to select five patients, without any underlying health conditions, to get the Sputnik V jab. She said 2,800 doses of the Russian vaccine were available at present.

Hungary also received its first delivery of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on February 6, according to TV news channel M1. The shipment of the vaccine, developed in the United Kingdom with the assistance of scientists from Oxford University, contains enough doses to inoculate more than 20,000 people, M1 said.

Hungary has ordered 6.54 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 3.27 million people. Additionally, half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S.-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech arrived in Hungary on February 9. Hungary has a contract for delivery of 6.6 million doses by the end of 2021.

Finally, Bangladesh sent 5,000 doses of vaccine manufactured under an Oxford license to Hungary as thanks for 500 free burn and restorative plastic surgeries performed by Hungarian doctors, reported Blikk.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of February 12, 2021.

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