Clinical trials had indicated that Pfizer's vaccine was 95 percent effective – Photo: MTI

Gulyas: Health care proved world-class in pandemic

Hungarian health-care workers deserve praise for providing the best possible care during the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister's chief of staff said on Thursday. The health-care system deployed enough doctors, nurses and equipment at all times, he said.

In an interview to commercial broadcaster atv, Gergely Gulyas slammed the opposition for putting all their efforts into “smear campaigns against the government and the health-care system, and into producing fake videos lambasting nurses.”

The pandemic-related mortality rate puts Hungarian health care on par with French, Swedish and Croatian services, Gulyas said. That achievement is in itself ample justification for the “enormous and unprecedented” wage rise for doctors, which will come into effect on Friday, with a law outlawing gratuity payments, he said. The same goes for the 72 percent wage rise for nurses due during the next cycle, he said.

Addressing allegations by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony that the government was falsifying pandemic-related data, Gulyas said the mayor’s “actions are mere social media stunts, while Budapest is slowly drowning in the growing number of homeless people, traffic jams and waste in public spaces.”

Regarding the coronavirus vaccine being rolled out in Hungary, Gulyas said he would be inoculated “when it is my turn”. The first to get the vaccine will be health-care workers, essential workers and those with underlying conditions, he said. “A Hungarian politician skipping the line for the vaccine while there are only a few thousand doses at hand would quickly fall victim to people’s anger,” he said.

All accredited vaccines are incomparably less risky than the virus itself, Gulyas said. All those willing to be inoculated should register, and all those registered will have a vaccine, he added.

Getting vaccinated obviates the need for mandatory quarantine, Gulyas said. Those who accept the vaccine “will be differentiated from those refusing it in certain areas of life,” he said, adding that people would be given the means to prove, in some form or other, that they had received the vaccine.

Regarding Democratic Coalition leader Ferenc Gyurcsany, Gulyas said the former prime minister “once ruined the country already”. “He is leading a coalition of everyone from the radical left to anti-Semites, and so he is more dangerous than ever.”

Gulyas said he attached little importance to whom the opposition coalition would field as their prime ministerial candidate. “In a coalition without principles, with so many different parties in alliance, the real power is with the party leaders,” he said.

Left-wing parties are legitimising radicals to obtain power, he said. “They are making anti-Semitism mainstream again … while even they themselves know they are incapable of leading the country.”

Gulyas said the Fidesz alliance with the Christian Democrats today would handily win in an election pitted against the left-wing opposition bloc.

He said Fidesz had always taken a rational approach to the EU. As membership of the bloc is in Hungary’s interest, Fidesz would vote to join today. But, he added, there were numerous and ever more “legitimate criticisms” of the EU.

The government, he said, supported European rules and measures serving to protect European financial interests and making the fight against corruption more effective, but “Brussels cannot be allowed to take away the governance of cultural, migration or family policy from Budapest under the heading of the rule of law.”

It is the prime minister who should determine Hungary’s direction based on the constitution, not Brussels, he said, adding that the Hungarian left wing and “EU elites” dreamt of a United States of Europe that would subsume national powers.

On the topic of the new US administration, Gulyas said the government gave all democratically elected governments the respect they deserved. “We’re allies of the United States, so we seek rational, values-based, allied cooperation with all US governments,” he said. “Whether the other side is receptive to this is another matter,” he added.

He said the government was glad to cooperate rationally based on mutual interests.

Gulyas said the new administration’s foreign policy would hopefully be “wiser than its Democratic predecessor”.

The PM’s chief of staff added that Washington had not succeeded in “defining its own interests in our region” under the Obama administration. “What our region’s communists failed to make people believe about America with 40 years of dictatorship propaganda the Obama-Hillary administration succeeded in doing in a matter of eight years,” Gulyas added.

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