Gov't extends tighter pandemic restrictions for another week

Government

Viktor Orbán

Image by Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said tighter pandemic restrictions introduced earlier in March would be extended for another week in an interview on public radio on Friday.

Hungary tightened pandemic restrictions two weeks earlier to curb rapidly rising coronavirus infection numbers. Non-essential businesses were closed between March 8 and 22, while primary school pupils returned to digital classrooms until April 7, the end of the Easter break.

Orbán told Kossuth Rádió on Friday that restrictions, in their present form, would remain in place "for another week for certain".

He said that it "may have been easier" to extend the restrictions for two weeks instead of one, but added that "a lot can change in a week".

Orbán said Easter would be "an especially risky period" as visits to family and friends increase contact numbers.

Speaking about the vaccination rollout, he said 500,000 fewer doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine would arrive in the coming two months than planned, but the government would work to address this shortfall by ordering more "Eastern" vaccines.

In addition to COVID-19 vaccines Hungary is getting in a joint European Union order, the country is also inoculating its citizens with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and Russia's Sputnik V.

The PM noted that the number of people being inoculated each week is 4-5 times the number of registered infections. Increasing the number of people vaccinated is "the most important means of defense", he added.

Orbán said he instructed the Operative Corps, which is managing the response to the pandemic, to draw up a plan for re-opening the country. The "key element" of this plan for a gradual re-opening will be the number of people who have been vaccinated, he added.

"We can take the first step of re-opening after every person over 65 who has registered is inoculated," he said.

"According to our calculations, we'll reach that point...when the number of vaccinated people reaches 2.5 million," he added.

The PM explained that 65% of respondents to a national consultation surveying Hungarians on how to re-open the country said people who can certify immunity to the coronavirus, through inoculation or previous infection, should be allowed exemptions from pandemic restrictions. 

Orbán on Fidesz's EPP exit

Asked to assess governing Fidesz's time with the European People's Party (EPP), Orbán said: "It was good, it was nice, it was enough."

Fidesz officially quit the EPP on Thursday, a few weeks after Fidesz MEPs left the party's parliamentary group over changes to party rules that Orbán had claimed earlier were "clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters".

Orban told Kossuth Rádió that Fidesz had not received unequivocal support from the EPP for measures to reduce household utility bills, to introduce a bank levy, and to tax multinationals, while it "got no backing at all" from the party for Fidesz's position during the migration crisis.

He said Hungary, together with Poland and Italy, would try to "reorganize the European right-wing".

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