Photo: MTI

Opposition critical of government’s pandemic management

Members of the opposition's Covid-19 committee called the government's coronavirus-related measures in the past one year "bad, ill-advised, disastrous" adding that some of the measures had been taken too late.

Speaking after the first session of the ad hoc committee on Friday, Parbeszed co-leader Timea Szabo told an online press conference broadcast on Facebook that the government had “made a mess” of crisis management, adding that delaying measures had put people’s health at risk.

Szabo insisted that out of the government’s economic protection package, worth 3,600 billion forints (EUR 10bn), 2,500 billion had not been spent on the purpose. She insisted that the body should hear Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler, Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller and businessman Lorinc Meszaros.

Democratic Coalition MP Zoltan Varga called the government’s performance “catastrophic”, saying that “hundreds and thousands” of jobs had been eliminated in the past one year when businesses went bankrupt, while “the government’s oligarchs and front men gained billions” through winning “a large part of European Union funds”. He urged that the government should give businesses 80 percent of their lost revenues for last year, and 80 percent of the wages to workers, from the economic protection fund.

MP of conservative Jobbik Anita Korosi Potocska said that the government’s crisis management had “failed”. She demanded that “show-case and prestige projects” should be halted immediately, and the funds given to families.

LMP co-leader Mate Kanasz-Nagy said that the government had “not prepared the country for the pandemic”. He insisted that the opposition should prepare an election programme for the national vote in 2022 that “ensures directions to help the country out of an economic and social crisis”.

Katalin Cseh, MEP of the Momentum party, said it was “painful” to see “how badly” the government handled the coronavirus crisis. She insisted that while only one in twenty Hungarians received a pandemic-related subsidy, in Austria one in every five citizens. She also said it was shocking that representatives of the ruling parties had stayed away from the committee, adding that “poverty or the crisis do not have (party) colours”.

Cseh also slammed the government for being “secretive” concerning the national vaccination plan, and “granting a licence to vaccines about which we know little”.

Socialist co-leader Agnes Kunhalmi said that Hungary was having a “crisis of confidence” while the country’s management was “chaotic” and measures were delayed. She also said that the Covid-19 committee was aiming to provide information on the epidemic the public had so far been denied.

In response, the ruling parties said that “rather than providing support, the opposition has constantly hindered coronavirus prevention” through “attacking health staff, epidemiologists, and defaming participants of preventive efforts”.

Kovacs warns against politicising pandemic

Zoltan Kovacs, the state secretary for international communications and relations, warned against politicising the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in a letter to the editor of Dutch daily De Telegraaf in response to a recent op-ed published in the paper criticising Hungary’s decision to use Russia’s Sputnik V Covid jab in its vaccination campaign.

If the Netherlands wants to endanger the lives of its people “by politicising access to Covid-19 vaccines, it is free to do so”, Kovacs said in his letter. Hungary, however, prioritises saving the lives of its citizens and slowing the spread of the virus, he added.

Kovacs said the op-ed on Hungary’s procurement of the Russian vaccine “shows why the Netherlands, with a per capita vaccination rate that is half the Hungarian percentage, unfortunately lags behind all EU countries”, with the exception of Latvia and Bulgaria.

The state secretary noted the example of Serbia, which he said had not been “delayed by a joint EU vaccination procurement programme” and had not had to wait for approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to start mass vaccinations.

Hungary’s decision to use the Russian vaccine was not made in haste, Kovacs said. The Hungarian public health authority approved the jab after conducting rigorous tests on it, he added.

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