Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Number of hospitalised without respiratory assistance drops below 1,000

The number of patients treated for Covid-19 in hospital and needing no respiratory support has dropped below 1,000 and the number of active infections is below 100,000 for the first time in a long while, the prime minister said on Friday. The number of patients needing respiratory assistance is 121, Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio in his regular interview.

The number of those with active infection stands at 84,719, Orbán said. These people’s health is under threat, with some of them still struggling for their life, he added.

The prime minister said that some 25,000 people had received their first jab and 117,000 got their second shot on Thursday.

“This is good news, but another 3 million adults have not yet been inoculated, and it is a scientific fact that this virus will not just go away,” Orbán said. He said many were wrong to believe that they could “escape” getting infected with coronavirus without being inoculated. “This virus will find even the very last person who is unprotected,” Orbán said, insisting that “only by getting vaccinated can we protect our own health and the health of our families”.

Organising the vaccination drive has been a huge challenge and the fact that Hungary has performed better than the US, which is a vaccine producer itself, in terms of first vaccinations is reason for self-respect, he added.

Orbán said everybody was afraid of the Indian variant of the virus and added that all the vaccines administered in Hungary without exception were able to combat it.

He described reports claiming that several EU member states would not allow entry for people inoculated with eastern vaccines as fear-mongering. “Many countries are not yet discussing travel options because they are still far from it but Hungary is signing a series of bilateral agreements that will enable free movement,” Orbán said. A common European Union vaccination card might be available in July and it will oblige all member countries to allow entry for people inoculated with EU approved vaccines, he said. The countries will have the option to also accept other vaccines and “no country will want to block itself from tourists”, he added.

The next task now is to relaunch the country’s economy, Orbán said. When the pandemic was at its peak, enacting measures to protect the economy was also important to save jobs and incomes, however, with the third wave “having been floored”, the focus must shift from protection to restarting the economy, he added. Orbán said the 2022 budget would be dedicated to these efforts, adding that second-quarter figures for this year were already promising.

Commenting on an EU summit held this week, he said everybody agreed on the importance of climate protection but the positions varied on how the burdens should be distributed. Different countries cannot bear the same amount of burden, he said. The idea to make people pay the costs of climate protection might sound natural in the west where good living standards allow ample space of maneuvering for this but Hungary cannot and does not want to make people pay an extra tax for this purpose after several years dedicated to efforts to lower public utility fees.

Orbán said it was unacceptable “to spread around” the costs of climate protection. Central European countries believe it is mostly the large companies that are responsible for damaging the climate and people should not be made to pay the price. The next two or three years will be dedicated to climate protection, he said, adding that efforts to reduce utility costs would also have to continue.

He also said that he had met the leader of Spain’s right-wing VOX party on Thursday and discussed issues that have recently been suppressed by the fight against the pandemic, such as climate protection and illegal migration. When Hungary decided in 2015 to build a fence along its southern border, Spain was among the critics, but now they have a higher fence erected on their border than Hungary, he added. An upcoming and serious party has now strengthened the group of anti-migration forces, he said referring to VOX.

Commenting on his upcoming meeting with UK counterpart Boris Johnson in London later in the day, Orbán said he will “seek special areas of cooperation”.

Orbán noted that the UK and countries in central Europe have common views on issues such as reducing bureaucracy and standing up for national sovereignty and said their position had been weakened by the UK’s departure from the European Union.

“[The UK] hasn’t left Europe, just the EU, so they’re still here. The question is: where will their place in the world be? They’re negotiating with everybody, establishing bilateral relations. We too have to establish a British-Hungarian trade and economic cooperation,” Orbán said.

Commenting on the 15th anniversary of a later leaked speech that former Socialist Prime Minister and current opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) leader Ferenc Gyurcsany made at a closed-door Socialist party meeting in Oszod, in which he said his government had been “lying day and night”, Orbán said the events surrounding it are hard to forget, including the revolts it caused. “It is shocking that the person who caused the revolts is still present in Hungarian politics and nobody has taken responsibility or extended an apology for those events, Orbán said. He said that Gyurcsany was still “the boss on the opposite side” and people he knew from the Gyurcsany government were making a comeback in the City Hall, with “the Gyurcsany government practically reestablishing itself behind the back of the mayor of Budapest”.

Orbán said it was parents’ responsibility to tell their children what events took place after the Oszod speech.

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