Gergely Gulyas – Photo: MTI

Gulyas: Government to cap fuel prices at HUF 480

The government has decided to cap the price of petrol and diesel at 480 forints (EUR 1.3) per litre from Nov. 15, the prime minister's chief of staff said. Putting a cap on fuel prices may boost the economy and help to reduce inflation, Gergely Gulyas told a regular government press briefing.

Gulyas noted that fuel prices had shot up during the past year, adding that Hungary had the sixth or seventh cheapest fuel in the European Union. In four countries petrol is cheaper, while in Malta and Cyprus the current prices are similar, he said, adding that Croatia was the only other EU country to cap its fuel prices, at the equivalent of 550 forints.

Concerning utility bills, Gulyas said Europe was facing an energy crisis, with the price of natural gas having increased by an average of 400 percent in European markets. This has had a knock-on effect on the price of electricity, which has doubled over the past year. He added that household bills had increased in every European country except for Hungary, which maintains a cap on utility fees.

Gulyas slammed the leftist opposition for suggesting that the government’s scheme to cut utility bills was unsustainable, and he confirmed the government’s commitment to keeping consumer utility prices at the same level. He added that low utility prices also contributed to Hungary’s competitiveness, with a positive impact on the economy’s growth.

On another subject, Gulyas said the humanitarian impact of the “unfortunate pullout” of international forces from Afghanistan, as well as developments at the Belarus-Poland border, were elements of a migration crisis facing the bloc.

Gulyas said Hungary was “loyal to Poland”. “It is important that Poland receives all assistance that Hungary was denied in 2015, when it started protecting the EU’s southern borders”. The EU must reimburse countries protecting its external borders, Gulyas insisted. Hungary requested a reimbursement of 580 billion forints, but has not yet received a response from the European Commission, he noted.

The minister called protection of the EU’s borders a “patriotic duty”, adding that the government would ensure that the necessary resources are in place. The interior ministry is planning to reinforce border controls and recruit volunteers, who would be deployed after a fast-track course, he added.

Gulyas also noted that the number of illegal entry attempts had shot up, from a daily 350 in 2020 to more than 1,000 at present.

Gulyas noted that the level of antibodies begins to wane six months after a second shot of a Covid vaccine, and may drop drastically after 7-8 months, which is why the government advises Hungarians to get a booster jab.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is different from previous waves because “this time we have a weapon to fight the virus in the form of vaccination,” Gulyas said. One in 100 people inoculated against Covid gets ill, but with much milder symptoms than those who have not received any shots at all, he said.

Gulyas advised Hungarians to get a third jab, citing a study released by Pfizer last week which said that the vaccine starts losing its effect after six months. “Anyone who has been vaccinated is still in a better position after the eighth and the ninth month than one who has not received a jab,” he added.

The government is launching a week-long nationwide vaccination drive on Nov. 22, with 101 vaccination points administering a first, or a second or a booster shot without preliminary registration, Gulyas said.

“It is particularly important that a substantially high number of people get a booster jab with a focus on immunocompromised people in the older age group,” Gulyas said.

In terms of health services, Gulyas said Hungary has sufficient resources and supplies available, adding that “no disruption or emergency is expected to emerge”.

Gulyas said the government has no plans to make vaccination mandatory, but would leave the option of ordering workers to get inoculated open to employers. But state employees who come into contact with a great number of people should certainly get vaccinated, he said, noting that this is why staff working in regional government administration offices overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office are required to get vaccinated by no later than Dec. 15. Staff working in positions where they meet a fewer number of clients on a daily basis are required to receive a first jab by no later than Jan. 31, he said.

Gulyas welcomed that the full vaccination rate among health-care sector employees is high at almost hundred percent, though he cautioned the sector’s workers to receive a booster jab.

He also advised teacher unions to encourage their members to take up a third jab.

“It is hard to tell on the basis of current data when the fourth wave of the pandemic will peak,” Gulyas said, adding, however, that “the more people get vaccinated and take up a booster jab, the faster we will get over this wave”.

“Since we cannot rule out that further waves could follow, in the event of a fifth wave, people who have received a booster jab will be protected,” the cabinet chief said.

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