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Orbán: ‘Every life counts’, tax cuts in pipeline

Every life counts", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a radio interview on Friday, while also flagging tax cuts next year. The new restrictions introduced on Tuesday to curb the spread of Covid-19 were "timely" and "precise", Orbán said, adding that the health-care system was up to the task of ensuring that all Hungarians receive "decent care".

In a step designed to help the hospitality industry, the government will reduce the VAT on takeout meals — the only form of service restaurants are currently allowed to provide — to 5 percent, Orbán said. The measure is being taken in consultation with the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Trade, he said.

Also, the government is committed to “tangible” tax cuts next year, he said, adding that both the central budget local authorities would undertake them.

Referring to the new partial lockdown, the prime minister said: “These kinds of decisions have to be made when there is a real danger of paralysis in health care.”

He said modelling indicated that in the absence of a curfew and other restrictions, and with the number of doctors and nurses available, “the limit” was “dangerously near”. Currently 6,690 Covid patients are in hospital, 518 on ventilators, he noted.

Fully 400 undergraduate students have been mobilised — and provided accommodation and meals — to drive medics to carry out tests, he noted.

Orbán also noted that 500 secondary schools have switched to teaching online and 208 kindergartens have shuttered. Online learning is taking place for 239 primary schools.

When it comes to distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, health-care staff will be vaccinated first, he said.

Orbán said as many vaccines as possible should be made available. “This should not be made into a political issue.” Vaccinations will be voluntary and people can decide which vaccine “to trust”, he said.

Meanwhile, temporary subsidies are in place to help businesses such as hotels and restaurants that are severely affected by the restrictions, he said.

The prime minister said the government was sticking to its policy of invigorating the “work-based economy”, ensuring that businesses can retain their workforce and make new hires.

Commenting on a proposal to suspend business and corporate tax, Orbán said such a move would be going too far and “we need to get the proportion right”, adding that the taxes must be reduced, however, in order to preserve jobs. He added that the government was committed to making “significant” tax cuts next year.

On the subject of making EU funding contingent of meeting certain rule-of-law criteria, the prime minister said he spoke with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday and she told him that “Hungarian money cannot be taken away”. “The money will be there, the economy will function, and developments will get under way.”

Orbán added that the draft regulations under the German EU presidency “isn’t really about the law but about politics”.

He said he had told Merkel that if the rule-of-law agreement made it into law, “we would turn the European Union into the Soviet Union” in which conditions were imposed from above “in the absence of any objective criteria”, while “a committee holds people accountable on ideological grounds”.

“We should really be talking about the epidemic and giving immediate help to troubled southern states,” he said.

Addressing the issue of the European Commission’s LGBTQ strategy, the prime minister said: “I wouldn’t say this is needless; there should be such working groups”. He added, however, that the timing was not right and decision-makers needed more time to evaluate the proposals.

Meanwhile, Orbán praised Hungary’s national eleven for its win against Iceland. “We can be proud of our sons,” he said, adding that it was not “just a football match” but “a fight”. Defeating the Vikings in battle “is a big deal”, the prime minister said.

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