Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

"One or two days after Easter", 2.5 million Hungarians will have received their first shots, PM says

Orbán: Hungary ‘heading for freedom’

By April 13, the number of Hungarians inoculated against Covid-19 could reach 3 million, "allowing a new opportunity for people to return to their earlier ways of life," the prime minister said in an interview on Friday. Speaking to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Viktor Orbán warned however that people should continue to be careful and observe coronavirus-related regulations during the Easter holidays.

Outlining the coronavirus situation, he noted that 260 people died over the past 24 hours, while the number of new infections exceeded 9,000. On Friday, the number of Hungarians who have received a single shot reached 2,156,680, while 863,000 are now fully inoculated. By the weekend, the number of single-shot recipients will reach 2.4 million, while that number will be 3 million a week later and over 3.5 million in two weeks’ time, he added.

Orbán said the ratio of Covid sufferers, the amount of vaccines available and the number of vaccinated “will improve nicely” in the next few weeks.

In two or three weeks’ time, he added, the country would reach a tipping point when vaccinations have a palpable impact on the number of fatalities and new infections.

The vaccination process, he said, would speed up as more vaccines arrive in the country, adding that hopefully shipments from the West would arrive more predictably than before.

“April 13, give or take a day, could be the point at which we have exceeded three million [who have recieved a single shot of vaccine], allowing us to take another step towards a return to our earlier way of life,” he said.

“One or two days after Easter”, 2.5 million Hungarians will have received their first shots, and the opening hours of shops and services could be extended, he said. He noted that the relevant decree has already been published, allowing businesses over two weeks to make preparations to reopen.

On April 19, kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools will be reopened, Orbán said. The next step will be taken when the vaccinated number reaches 3-3.5 million, he said, adding that he would provide details next Friday.

Orbán warned Hungarians to hold back from their customary Easter gatherings and observe the restrictions, otherwise “Easter could lead to big trouble”. People who have already been inoculated can move more freely and visit their families, he said, but others should “take care of themselves and those they may infect”.

A lockdown will not stop the virus, Orbán said, arguing that the British variant could only be slowed down.

Some Western countries, he said, were not using the Russian and Chinese vaccines and lagged behind Hungary. “Germans, Austrians, and the French had better introduce restrictions now,” he added.

While the Hungarian government decided to use “any vaccine the Hungarians deem safe and effective, whatever its name”, Western Europe “has maintained a superior attitude from colonial times” and its countries “want to prove that they can resolve the problem on their own.” But when the crisis is over “they will see that some 70 percent of the world used Eastern vaccines and 30 percent, at the most, were inoculated with Western ones.”

Orbán said “the anti-vaxxer campaign is a sin” and insisted that “those convinced by the left wing to reject the shot could die”.

He said that 81 percent of the registered Hungarians older than 65 had been vaccinated, leaving 250,000 in that group to be inoculated “in the next few days”. So far 3.7 million Hungarians have registered, Orbán said, adding that Hungary was “doing well” in terms of its vaccine procurement. “Theoretically we could reach a point when there is more vaccine than people registered,” he said.

Orbán said he had asked the central coronavirus board if young people in the 16-18 age group can be inoculated.

“If people see that certain services and opportunities for a happy community life” are tied to vaccination certificates, this could “push up” the number of people registering for the vaccine as “more people will think it worth getting vaccinated.”

The prime minister said doctors and nurses “are our heroes”, whose efforts were appreciated by the whole country. “Everybody should respect them and not talk about a collapsing health-care system because this would be degrading their work,” Orbán said.

“It is Good Friday, a day of quiet, but Sunday will bring resurrection … even amid our troubles we should believe there will be resurrection … there will be a Hungarian resurrection. We are heading towards freedom.”

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