Hungary to inoculate 4 mln, triggering easing on Saturday

Government

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The number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Hungary is set to reach 4 million on Friday or Saturday, triggering the re-opening of a broad range of services, such as cinemas, gyms, museums, and performance venues, to Hungarians with immunity certificates, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a weekly interview on public radio on Friday.

"The 4 million [threshold] is certain to be reached today [or] tomorrow, so we will put those measures into force from tomorrow morning," Orbán said on Kossuth Rádió.

Asked when the government would ease restrictions further, at the 4.5 million or the 5 million mark, the PM said a decision had still not been taken.

"We still don't know, I'll tell you honestly, and the reason is that we're Hungarians and, as I see in the case of tax returns, if there is a deadline, then it's always close to the end that people rush to the tax office, and I see something similar in the case of vaccination," he said.

He explained that the "rush to get vaccinated slows" when the pandemic situation improves.

"When the ratio of inoculated adults reaches half, somehow the impetus wanes," he said. "We have reached the point at which we have more jabs and more inoculation capacity than the number of people who want to get vaccinated."

There's nothing like that in Western Europe...We're the only country that is at the point where a citizen registers...makes an appointment and gets inoculated regardless of age or health condition," he added.  

Orbán reiterated that Hungary would set aside enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate 16- to 18-year-olds, and said adults could still get the Pfizer jab on Friday but may have to wait "for weeks" before it becomes available again. He added that 16- to 18-year-olds would start to be inoculated after May 10, when matriculation exams finish.

He also said an operative corps would soon be established to coordinate the economic recovery, noting that the 2022 budget would be one to "jump-start the country".

Orbán acknowledged recommendations by economists to cut the deficit target in the 2022 budget.

"Their position is appropriate and correct in general, but at this point in time we cannot achieve that, and I don't recommend the parliament try to achieve that because then we would have to give up things such as the pensioners' annual bonus...or tax preferences for young people that we definitely want to use to manage the crisis and re-start the country," he said.

"The 2022 budget is a budget for re-starting [the economy], it can't be required to comply with the kinds of financial norms that would otherwise be intuitive during peacetime," Orbán concluded.

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