Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Reopening of secondary schools pushed to May 10

Orbán: Four million have registered, but this is not enough

Secondary schools will fully reopen on May 10 after final exams have taken place, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview on Friday. Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio that the operative board responsible for measures to control the epidemic had also decided that the exams will be written only. He noted that last year, too, the school-leaving exams were confined to written papers and this should be the case this year to keep matters fair and consistent.

Orbán noted that the British coronavirus variant was more aggressive and destructive than the variant that had spread during the first wave of the pandemic. During the first wave, lockdowns and isolation were enough to rid the country of the epidemic for two to three months, he said. But the British variant was different, he added, and lockdowns could only slow down its transmission, while only vaccines could get rid of it.

“We have been living under warlike conditions” for a year, under conditions that people knew only from their grandparents’ stories and films, he said. Government experts have said that “peacetime can only be restored” if the virus is defeated with the help of vaccination, he added.

The registration for vaccination is progressing well, with over four million people having registered by Thursday, Orbán said, adding however that this was still not enough, which was why the government had asked celebrities to promote the vaccination drive.

The number of Hungarians who have received their first vaccine shot will have reached 4 million by early May, he said. By mid-May the number of vaccinated will have reached 6 million, and by the third week 7 million will have received their first dose, he said. By the start of June, 7 million out of Hungary’s adult population of 8 million will have been inoculated, he said, adding that the fear was that the number of people who have registered to be vaccinated would be less than the number of shots available.

Orbán said the soccer European championships will start in June and Hungary will be involved. By that time, everyone registered will have received their jabs and those that have a vaccination certificate will be able to attend the events, he added.

The vaccination drive has been one of the largest organisational operations in the country’s history, he said. For the five types of vaccines approved and in use in Hungary, there are different lengths of time needed between the first and second jabs. Every first jab administered must have its follow-up pair waiting in storage, so that it can also be administered at the right time, he added.

Hungary is way ahead of European Union countries in terms of the progress made in its vaccination drive, Orbán said.

Commenting on vaccine procurements, Orbán said if there no EU solution was available, a national solution was needed. Hungary’s decision to procure Chinese and Russian vaccines had been vindicated, he said, with twice as many people inoculated as in western European countries.

Orbán said Hungarians had shown “exemplary discipline” in complying with restrictions, while in western Europe deliberate rule violations and protests were “the norm”.

He said every step of the country’s reopening would depend on the number of people vaccinated, but epidemiological data would also play a determining role too.

Orbán said the National Consultation survey of the public on epidemic-related matters provided a clear roadmap: school re-openings would be followed by restaurants, then hotels; after which cultural and sporting events, cinemas and gyms can be attended. “We’re getting close to the point that cultural and community events can be attended in possession of a vaccination certificate,” he said.

The prime minister said a “anti-vaccination bill” proposed by left-wing lawmakers would have banned the Chinese and Russian vaccines. Had it passed, many hundreds or thousands more would have died, he said. While “hypocritical” left-wing politicians were getting vaccinated, they were dissuading people from doing the same, he added.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Zsolt Petry, the Hungarian coach who was sacked by German club Herta for expressing his views about same-sex marriage and immigration, Orbán said liberals represented a “repressive” kind of politics in today’s Europe, adding that expressing an opinion resulted in punishment. “Zsolt Petry was sentenced to a job loss because he didn’t adhere to what others thought was correct.”

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