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State of Emergency Decrees Extended to Fall as 5 millionth Innoculation Approaches

Government

The Hungarian Parliament has voted to extend pandemic defense measures, ensuring government decrees issued under the state of emergency, which were otherwise set to expire on May 23, remain in force. The state of emergency will automatically cease 15 days after the start of the fall parliamentary session, although the government could decide to end it before that.

Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, had previously said that restrictions for citizens who haven’t been inoculated against the coronavirus could remain in force until August. Later, Gulyás said he expected the number of people inoculated against the coronavirus in Hungary to reach five million by May 28, which would trigger further easing of pandemic restrictions. As of May 19, the figure stands at 4,790,996.

The expected timing aligns with data from virologist Miklós Rusvai, who said that the epidemiological indicators have been improving. He told TV news channel M1 that the amount of virus hereditary material in wastewater had decreased, indicating that the third wave of the pandemic may subside by the end of May.

To reach that five million threshold, the government allocated “at least” HUF 16 billion for an information campaign to promote vaccination against the coronavirus, reported state news agency MTI. The government acknowledged that information campaigns could “significantly contribute to the success of the inoculation program.”

As of May 14, the ratio of Hungarians who have firm plans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or have already received their first jab stands at 64%, according to a weekly survey by the Central Statistical Office (KSH). Among them, more than 50% of 16-18-year-olds have registered for a coronavirus vaccine, Ágnes Galgóczi, the head of the epidemiology department of the National Center for Public Health, told public media on May 16.

Company Vaccinations

Companies are also playing a role in getting their employees vaccinated, according to novekedes.hu (Growth). The Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) and the Hungarian Banking Association urged their managers to give employees one paid day of leave on the day of or after they get a COVID jab. Additionally, Audi, MOL, Suzuki, and Wizz Air have organized onsite shots for workers registered in the vaccination system.

Currently, COVID vaccines from China and Russia account for 52% of the total of 10,133,015 doses Hungary has received, according to koronavirus.gov.hu, the government’s official pandemic website. Of these, the last shipment of Russian Sputnik V vaccines arrived in Hungary on May 11, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

In the past two weeks, Hungary has also received a brace of deliveries of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, with 1.2 million doses in each case. An additional 330,000 doses of the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in Hungary on May 18.

Meanwhile, Hungary is also making strides in its own vaccine development undertaking. On May 17, State Secretary László György said at a daily pandemic press briefing that Hungary would lay the cornerstone of a national vaccine factory in Debrecen in 100 days. The plant will ensure self-sufficiency for vaccine production for Hungarians and the Carpathian Basin from the end of 2022, György said.

Progress with immunity certificates has also been underway. On May 14, Hungary launched a mobile application that serves as a COVID immunity certificate for those who have received their first jab. The Hungarian government has also made further agreements with several countries for mutual acceptance of these immunity certificates. These now include Bahrain, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  May 21, 2021.

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