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PM warns of 'dangerous moment' as cases rise again

Orbán encourages public to get inoculated amid rising third wave

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in a radio interview on Friday, encouraged Hungarians to get themselves inoculated against the coronavirus, warning that the country was on the cusp of a third wave of infections.

With a third wave of the pandemic hitting the country, people should make a rational, rather than an emotional decision on getting vaccinated, as it could even cost them their lives, Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio.

“I ask everyone to register and go and get themselves inoculated and if possible, accept whichever vaccine they are offered,” the prime minister said.

Orbán also said that some 120,000 people filled out the government’s National Consultation survey on reopening the country on the first day. The responsibility for reopening the country obviously lies with the government, he said, adding that the best decision would be made if more and more people had their voices heard.

“If we can fend off a third wave, we can reopen the country,” the prime minister said.

He said Hungary had the biggest stock of effective Covid vaccines out of all European Union member states. The prime minister said that by the end of May, Hungary can have 3.5 million more people vaccinated than an EU country of similar size “because we don’t rely solely on the EU’s slow vaccine distribution but also use our own resources to procure more” jabs.

He noted that Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, had predicted a “race for vaccines” as far back as November and had recommended that Hungary hold talks on purchasing vaccines from all over the world to get ahead of a projected vaccine shortage. This is why Hungary entered into talks with Russia and China, Orbán said, adding that he “doesn’t really care what the others have to say about this” as Hungary “always has to be one step ahead of them”.

He pointed out that “the Germans and everyone else” were now working to procure doses of the Russian vaccine and said he expected other countries to begin authorising the Chinese jab as well.

Asked when Hungary could begin using China’s Sinopharm vaccine, Orbán said he had been told by the chief medical officer that analysis of the jab was “going well”.

The prime minister warned, however, that Hungary was facing “a moment of danger” as it sees a steep rise in coronavirus cases and overall deteriorating epidemiological trends.

Hungary registered 3,093 new Covid-19 cases and 110 deaths on Thursday, Orbán said. The average age of those who died on Thursday was 76.5, he said, adding that there were 4,024 people hospitalised with Covid-19, 352 on a ventilator.

“Our fate will be decided by whether the vaccination curve or the infection curve will rise faster,” the prime minister said. If vaccinations can outpace the rise in cases “then we will save lives” but if they fail to keep up with the third wave of infections “we will lose lives,” Orbán said.

He praised the efforts put forward by Hungary’s “exceptionally strong” health-care system over the past year, saying it had saved many lives and would again withstand the pressure posed by the pandemic.

He added that the health-care system had plenty of reserves, and would even be able to handle a sudden influx of 20,000 Covid patients if it became necessary.

Orbán said 391,821 people had already received at least their first shot and the number will soon reach 441,000. This will be followed by a “huge jump” because 650,000 people will get inoculated over 7-10 days, he added. By early March, 1,225 million people will have been inoculated and by April, the number will reach 2,582 million, Orbán said, adding that everyone registered for vaccination will have received it by Easter.

People ready to be inoculated will be told which vaccine is available and if they refuse it, “we will assure them that they do not lose their place in the line” and they will be notified at a later date, when the vaccine they want becomes available, Orbán said.

In response to opposition criticism, he said the left-wing was following “a school of power, from Lenin through Rakosi and through Janos Kadar, it is a political tradition … when it comes to power, the left-wing knows no mercy”.

“If the left-wing believes that it can gain power more easily if the right-wing national government’s vaccination programme is unsuccessful and the handling of the epidemic is unsuccessful, then they will pronounce just that”, he said. The left-wing has openly rejected cooperation “but they have gone too far” because human lives are now at stake, he said.

Commenting on the 30th anniversary of Visegrad Group cooperation, he said “if we join forces, we all benefit and get richer”.

Hungary and Poland must be connected by as many high-capacity energy links and transport networks through Slovakia as possible, he said, adding that this was a basic economic strategy interest for Hungary.

A road link to Kosice (Kassa) is expected to be ready by the end of this year but Poland is still far away from there, so the next stretch will have to be built, possibly in a joint project, he said.

For a long time, “we were defending Europe” from external threats but the situation has changed because western Europe has allowed cultures with non-Christian roots to enter, he said. “We built the fence and stopped migration” but this type of pressure is now arriving not through central Europe anymore, he said. However, any “clever western European politician” understands that strong central Europe is also a strategic interest for western Europe, he added.

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