Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Venues to people with certificates to open once 4 million jabs reached

Orbán: Outdoor venues to open from Saturday

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a radio interview on Friday announced that 3.5 million people have been vaccinated in Hungary, paving the way for outdoor venues to open from Saturday morning. Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio that by the middle of next week around four million shots will have been administered, and a wide range of services will be available for people with vaccine certificates.

Venues open to people with certificates will include theaters, cinemas, museums, dance and music venues, circuses, gyms, zoos, spas and swimming pools, sports venues and adventure parks, the prime minister said. It will also be possible to use the indoor areas of hotels and restaurants, he added.

The country, he said, will be opened up gradually.

Meanwhile, a sufficient amount of Pfizer jabs will be allocated for 16-18 year-olds, Orbán said. Currently, 12-16 year-olds are not eligible to be vaccinated in Hungary, and further testing must be carried out for that age group, Orbán added.

Some regulations need to be adjusted: since terraces will be allowed to stay open until 9.30pm from Saturday, the night-time curfew will start at 11pm, he said.

Orbán said the reopening of schools went smoother than expected earlier this week, with well above 50 percent of children returning to kindergartens and schools.

The prime minister said the efficacy of vaccines was still under debate, but experience suggested that after receiving the first shot, only around 1 percent of people fall ill. This means that this group can be considered to be essentially protected, he added. Vaccination continues to be vital, he said, adding that more than half of the adult population will be protected by the middle of next week. He said a new online surface is now available where it is possible to reserve a time for vaccination.

Orbán said anti-vaxxers had “a strong voice”, insisting that “the whole of the opposition” belongs among them. Yet, all vaccines are equally effective, he added.

A large volume of vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the upcoming days, so most probably everyone who has registered will have been vaccinated by mid-May, he said. Once that happens, vaccines will be offered to any Hungarian from any part of the world who travels to Hungary, he added.

Commenting on the extension of the state of special legal order, he said the pandemic was not over yet and the country must maintain operability during parliament’s summer recess, with the government having to make all the requisite decisions.

Orbán also said the number of deaths was not a political matter and he asked everyone to “show more respect” when talking about fatalities. The European Union offers an information website where the number of current deaths can be compared with the pre-Covid period. Hungary belongs to the better-performing countries, according to this website, he said. In Hungarian statistics, however, the number of people who died as a result of Covid is not separated from the number of people who died while having Covid, he added.

The prime minister said vaccines were bedeviled by business and geopolitical interests, and in Europe in particular, politics had overtaken humanitarian considerations. He added that the reason why Hungary’s vaccination programme was successful because no one could “tell the country what to do”.

Orbán said decisions in Hungary were taken solely according to the national interest.

Meanwhile, the planned amendment to the 2021 budget and the 2022 budget are all about relaunching the economy, he said, noting the roll-out of a massive housing renovation scheme and the allocation of hundreds of billions of forints to businesses, among other government support measures.

Referring to talks in Brussels later on Friday, Orbán said financial issues were already settled, so he preferred to focus on issues connected with the future of the European Union. Topics for discussion include how the bloc should prepare for a similar pandemic, lessons learned, and how relations with the new US administration are developing, he said.

The prime minister also paid tribute to Hungary’s police, saying that those who keep order “defend our freedom” in a democracy. Order, he said, had been maintained, “and this is thanks to the police”.

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