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Govʼt to decide on future of repayment moratorium on Saturday

Hungaryʼs government will make a decision on the future of a moratorium on loan repayments for businesses and households at a meeting of the body coordinating the economic response to the coronavirus crisis on Saturday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a weekly interview on public radio on Friday, according to a report by state news wire MTI.

Viktor Orbán (Photo by Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com)

"We will decide on one thing tomorrow morning: the issue of the repayment moratorium," Orbén said on Kossuth Rádio.

The automatic opt-in moratorium, among the first measures the government took in the spring to ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, is set to expire at the end of the year.

"January 1 is coming soon, and what will happen afterward? We have to take a decision on that now, on whether to continue the repayment moratorium and on what parts to continue," Orbán said.

"The government discussed a number of proposals on Wednesday, but a decision will be taken on Saturday...at a meeting of the Economic Operative Corps," he added.

Orbán noted that about two-thirds of companies and half to two-thirds of households had availed of the moratorium.

The PM said the healthcare system is well prepared for the second wave of coronavirus infections, explaining that hospital beds could be freed up, 10,000 at a time, if necessary, but he acknowledged that the months before an expected peak, around December or January, would not be carefree.

"Weʼll get through it somehow, but we will not have a cheery fall, thereʼs no doubt about that. Itʼs difficult to put yourself in a good mood at home with the family or in the workplace when oneʼs there with a mask...a sign that things arenʼt as they should be, such will be our autumn," he said.

"Iʼd ask everyone to be prepared for this, in spirit, in thought and psychologically, that the fall will be about defense and about measures against the virus," he said.

"I hope to God Iʼm not right, but the daily number of infections will exceed 1,000," he added, noting that that number had already been passed in the Czech Republic and Austria.

Orbán reiterated that the country "must continue to function" while defense measures are implemented in a "disciplined" manner.

He said people should be able to go about living their everyday lives, be they students and teachers in schools, people in workplaces or those in sport or culture.

He urged Hungarians to comply with instructions on hand-washing, wearing masks and physical distancing, and said young people "must be a little more mindful" so as not to be the ones to infect their parents or their grandparents.