Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: Facebook

New measures will be imposed for thirty days

Orbán: Additional restrictions to be introduced from Wednesday

Hungary's government is to tighten measures in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus as hospitals might struggle to handle the growing case load, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Facebook on Monday. If granted special powers in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday, the government will extend the curfew introduced earlier to be in force between 8 pm and 5 am, and restrict opening hours of shops and other services starting at midnight on Tuesday, in measures similar to those in force in Austria, he said.

The measures will be imposed for thirty days, and will be reassessed afterwards, Orbán said.. Company canteens will stay open, he added. Shops and services such as hair salons will have to close at 7pm, and hotels will only be allowed to receive business travellers but no tourists, he said.

The government will also introduce a blanket ban on gatherings, Orbán said. No more than ten people will be allowed to gather at private events or family gatherings, and sports events will be held behind closed doors, he said. People can exercise outdoors but amateur team sports are banned, Orbán said.

Universities and secondary schools above the eighth grade will return to digital education while facilities for children under the age of 14 will remain open, he said.

Hospital employees, school and kindergarten teachers and nursery employees will be tested weekly, “even though we know that quick tests have only a 50-60 percent accuracy,” he said.

Although hospitals are well-equipped with protective gear and ventilators, and “doctors and nurses are working beyond their strength … they are also human, and have their limitations,” Orbán said. A vaccine is not expected for weeks yet, he added.

Regarding economy protection measures, Orbán said that in the coming 30 days, the state would reimburse hotels for 80 percent of the bookings registered before November 8.

Restaurants and leisure facilities will be exempt from paying contributions after their employees for the next 30 days, he said, and the government will overtake paying half of the wages, he said.

Employers are only eligible for those allowances, however, if they commit to keeping and paying their employees, he said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Hungary has seen 109,000 infections, and Europe 8 million, Orbán said.

“We all know it will not be easy. The next weeks will be hard. But the vaccine is within reach now, we will have to persevere until then … we will have to take care of the elderly and keep the rules. Let’s take care of each other! If we stand together, we will succeed again,” he said.

Hungary receives one million favipiravir tablets from China

Hungary has taken delivery of one million favipiravir pills in a new shipment from China, the foreign minister said on Monday. Peter Szijjarto said talks were ongoing with international partners about protection against the novel coronavirus pandemic, including vaccine acquisitions and also medicine to treat patients more effectively. The new shipment arrived from China late on Sunday as a result, he said.

The drug can be used for patients already showing the symptoms of infection but in proper dosage it can help prevent the worsening of symptoms, he said.

Talks are under way with several manufacturers about further acquisitions, Szijjarto said, adding that a shipment of an additional one million tablets is also expected to arrive from Japan at the end of this week.

Szijjarto, who has contracted the virus and is currently in quarantine for the seventh day, said his flu-like symptoms were “not going away as yet” but he expressed hope that his condition would not deteriorate.

LMP: Restrictions announced by Orbán necessary but ‘come late’

The restrictions announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are necessary and deserve support but they come late, opposition LMP group leader Laszlo Lorant Keresztes said. He told an online press conference that additional restrictions beyond those announced by Orbán were needed to protect people’s health and keep the economy functional.

He demanded free-of-charge virus screening for all Hungarian citizens and more effective contact tracing, as well as making health services free to all, regardless of whether they have social insurance.

He also said support was needed to create conditions for home office and people who lose their jobs must be granted immediate support.

A one-off 500,000 forint (EUR 1,350) wage supplement should also be paid to social workers and teachers should be eligible, he added.

He said LMP would support all measures that help the fight against the pandemic but called on the government to stop its “hate campaign” against opposition politicians. He also called on the cabinet to handle professional organisations, interest representation bodies and local municipalities as partners.

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