Prime minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: MTI

Jobbik party says PM's announcement was a confession that the government was incapable of managing the epidemic

Orbán: ‘Special legal order’ to be reintroduced

The government is reintroducing the "special legal order" in connection the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Tuesday in a video on Facebook. He called on lawmakers to reintroduce the special legal order for 90 days.

Orbán also said the government is imposing a curfew between midnight and 5am, and nightclubs will be ordered to close.

Also, parking will be made free of charge once again with a view to reducing crowds on public transport, he said.

The prime minister said sporting events, cinemas and theatres will have to restrict audiences to using every third seat, and face masks must be worn. The authorities will inspect all events and fine transgressors.

Venues that fail to observe the rules will be shut down immediately, he added.

“Those who don’t observe the rules, don’t wear masks endanger not just their own lives but also those of others,” the prime minister said.

Orbán said the epidemic was gaining momentum, noting that Austria now had 1.5 times as many infections per million people as Hungary. “And the situation is even worse further out to the west,” he added.

Orbán said these indicators were crucial because Hungary tends to be about 5-7 days behind Austria in terms of the state of the epidemic. If this trend holds, Hungary’s hospitals will be close to exhausting their capacities by mid-December, he said.

Orbán said that, just as in the spring, it was again the elderly and people suffering from chronic illnesses who are most vulnerable to Covid-19. “This means that our parents and grandparents are in serious danger.”

Orbán said it was time to take further steps to protect the operations of the country’s hospitals and the lives of the elderly.

“We must put political disagreements aside and we’ll need swift action and timely measures,” he said.

Orbán noted that it recently took parliament two weeks to approve stricter sanctions for violations of the rules on mask-wearing. “This is absurd, especially in the current situation,” he said. “If the virus is spreading quickly, then we, too must be quick.”

The prime minister also said that doctors will receive wage hikes and that hospitals had all the necessary protective equipment at their disposal. He said Hungary had the third largest reserves of hospital beds in Europe and the largest reserve of ventilators overall.

The prime minister praised Hungary’s doctors and nurses for their efforts in treating patients, but conceded that only a vaccine would end the pandemic.

“The ultimate solution will be a vaccine, but this is within sight now,” Orbán said. “We must hold out until a vaccine is developed,” he added, noting that Hungary was in talks with the European Union, Russia, China and Israel on buying vaccines once they are developed.

Ruling Fidesz welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, saying that Hungary needed firm and timely measures to handle the second wave of the epidemic.

“This is what the special legal order, meaning the declaration of a state of emergency is for,” the party said in a statement, noting that such a measure had already succeeded during the first wave. Fidesz added, at the same time, that it was also crucial that Hungary was able to function.

The party said it expected the left-wing opposition to support the reintroduction of the special legal order in parliament.

The nationalist Jobbik party said Orbán’s announcement was a confession that the government was incapable of managing the epidemic.

“The virus is still the one setting the pace,” Jobbik said in a statement. They said it was “downright alarming” that hospitals were expected to reach the limits of their capacities by mid-December “even though the so-called second wave came as a surprise to no one”.

The party said the new round of restrictions indicated that Hungary’s health-care and social institutions had not been adequately prepared to defend against the epidemic.

The opposition Socialists said the measures announced by the prime minister did not go far enough.

“Free parking will not reduce the number of fatalities and the curfew will not reduce infections,” Bertalan Toth, the party’s co-leader, said on Facebook. He said that instead of imposing fines the government should be focused on saving lives and aiding those who have run out of savings.

He also called for mass coronavirus testing and for those in quarantine to be guaranteed full salaries during sick leave. “Those who receive 60 percent of their salary on sick leave will rather downplay their symptoms and not go see a doctor,” Toth said.

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