Pandemic restrictions to remain in place - Orbán

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Although Hungary is ahead of its European Union peers in terms of its vaccination rollout, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said pandemic restrictions would remain in place for the time being in a weekly interview on public radio on Friday.

"Our picture of the inventory situation is fully clear: we know how many vaccines we have, we know when vaccines will arrive, so we're in a position to talk about re-opening, but an immediate re-opening is out of the question," Orbán said on Kossuth Rádió.

He said a proposal to re-open non-essential businesses had been brought up at a meeting of the Operative Corps, the body coordinating Hungary's response to the pandemic, early Friday. 

"But the experts' opinion was clear: as long as the number of infections is so high, no re-opening can be allowed," he said.

Hungary tightened pandemic restrictions earlier in the month to curb rapidly rising coronavirus infection numbers, shuttering non-essential businesses from March 8.

The PM said the number of shoppers would be restricted to store area: one for every ten square meters. He said the Operative Corps had proposed extending mandatory closing times for stores from 7:00 until 9:00 in the evening, while an evening curfew could be moved back from 8:00 until 10:00 or 11:00 at night.

He said details of the new rules would be published in the official gazette, Magyar Közlöny, "by the afternoon or tomorrow morning at the latest".

Orbán said "any talk about re-opening" could not happen until all Hungarians over 65 who registered to be vaccinated had their jabs.

He added that 71% of registered over-65s had been inoculated already.

He said there was a "realistic chance" for schools to re-open on April 19, but school staff would have to be inoculated by April 10. He added that 102,000 school staff had registered to get the vaccine, and 20,000 of these people had already had their jab.

Orbán said Hungarians would have "a free summer", although attending some events could require immunity certification.

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