Photo: MTI

Szijjarto in talks on unimpeded travel for inoculated Czech, Hungarian citizens

Foreign ministry official: WHO confirms Sinopharm protects elderly against Covid-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that China's Sinopharm vaccine is effective also in protecting the elderly against Covid-19, a foreign ministry official said on Tuesday. In the meantime Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto held talks with his Czech counterpart, Jakub Kulhanek, on unimpeded travel of inoculated citizens into each other's countries.

Tamas Menczer, the state secretary for communications and international representation, said in a video message on Facebook that WHO released earlier in the day its detailed recommendations on Sinopharm. Menczer quoted WHO as saying that based on currently available data it recommends using the Chinese vaccine also for the inoculation of people aged older than 60. WHO said it had no data suggesting any difference in the effect of Sinopharm on people in older or younger age groups, the state secretary added.

WHO, Menczer noted, announced on May 7 that it had approved the Chinese vaccine as effective and safe.

Szijjarto in talks on unimpeded travel for inoculated Czech, Hungarian citizens

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday held talks with his Czech counterpart, Jakub Kulhanek, on unimpeded travel of inoculated citizens into each other’s countries.

Szijjarto told a joint press conference after the meeting in Budapest that they had agreed on the matter in principle, and the details would be clarified shortly.

Kulhanek said the details of the agreement would be set down by the end of the week on lifting all travel restrictions between the two countries for inoculated citizens.

Szijjarto said the Czech Republic was one of Hungary’s closest allies, and bilateral cooperation had been exemplary during the coronavirus epidemic in terms of helping to repatriate their respective citizens stranded abroad, while Hungary provided 150 ventilators and 40,000 vaccines to Czechia by the end of May.

Despite coronavirus-related impediments, trade turnover exceeded 9 billion euros and large companies of both countries actively invested in the other country, he noted. Oil and gas company MOL operates 304 petrol stations in Czechia, while energy company MVM Energetika already has 1.5 million Czech customers, he added.

Nuclear energy is an important part of the national energy mix in both countries, he said, adding that with a view to attaining climate targets, both jointly opposed negative discrimination against nuclear energy.

Szijjarto said both countries also agreed on issues concerning the European Union’s future, and both reject illegal migration and quotas, while prioritising the protection of the EU’s external borders. Both countries also support Western Balkan countries in their quest to join the bloc, he added.

Asked about plans for a EU vaccine passport, Szijjarto said such a document should not override national regulations.

Asked about Hungary’s veto of the joint EU statement criticising China over human rights, the minister said the EU had issued a statement or taken decisions on China eight times so far without anything to show for it. A ninth statement would have been “pointless”, he said.

The Czech foreign minister expressed thanks to Hungary for its aid during the epidemic and for its statements in connection with the destruction of the Vrbetice armory, adding that Hungary had played an important role in drafting the related EU-NATO joint statement.

The Czech presidency of the EU was also on the agenda of the meeting, he said. “We need a Europe that confidently defends its values, freedom, democracy and human rights,” the Czech minister added.

Justice minister: Government rejects ‘attacks on safe vaccines’

Vaccination against Covid-19 is not a political issue, therefore the Hungarian government has “rejected all politically motivated attacks on effective and safe vaccines”, Justice Minister Judit Varga said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Following a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels, Varga said that “when human lives are in danger, we cannot afford the luxury of choosing among vaccines simply on a political basis”.

“We were confident that the key to saving most lives is to do everything we can to make as many vaccines available as possible,” she said.

In another entry, Varga said she had met Didier Reynders, commissioner for justice, and shared with him “concerns about the last Rule of Law Report, which unfoundedly criticised Hungary”. She noted that in April last year the European Commission had pledged to “measure all Member States on an equal standard, including positive developments” in this year’s report.

“We still expect the 2021 Rule of Law Report to be impartial, based on real facts, hence including the Hungarian government’s standpoint too,” she said.

Hungary to receive several vaccine shipments this week

Hungary will receive shipments of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines this week, the government website said on Tuesday.

A shipment of Pfizer vaccines and 200,000 doses of second-shot Sputnik vaccine are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, the website said. It added that people who choose to get Sputnik are advised to book a time for vaccination without delay because only limited amounts of Sputnik are left at the hospital inoculation points.

Hungary continues to be at second place in Europe in terms of the proportion of the population vaccinated, the site said. Some 44 percent of Hungarians have been vaccinated as against the EU average of 28 percent, it added.

A total of 4.971 million people have registered for vaccination so far and some 80 percent have received at least their first shot, the website said. Vaccination is currently offered to all age groups and it can be booked online. Currently bookings can be made for vaccination with Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik, it said.

Hungary has signed up for a total of 24 million doses of vaccine from the EU, of which some 20 percent has been received from four manufacturers, including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. Pfizer has supplied the largest amount, 3.2 million doses of its vaccine.

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