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Stricter travel rules needed, PM says

Orbán urges Hungarians to register for jab

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has appealed to Hungarians to register to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying that all applicants would receive their first dose by Easter. This would result in the highest vaccination rate in the European Union, he added.

Orbán also said in an interview to public radio on Friday that Hungary’s borders must definitely be tightened and stricter travel rules introduced in light of the big escalation of the coronavirus epidemic. Even business people must understand that viral variants must be radically curbed, even for business trips beyond Europe’s borders, he added.

The prime minister said many people were planning trips to “exotic destinations” which were getting more affordable in the current circumstances, and he noted that some of the more infectious virus mutations are actually from Africa.

Orbán also noted that the operative body responsible for handling the epidemic ordered hospitals to ramp up their level of preparedness at its meeting this morning, and this level would be the same as during the critical phases of the epidemic in April and November last year.

During the past 24 hours, 4,668 new infections were reported and 123 lost their lives to the epidemic, Orbán noted. A total of 451 people are on ventilator of 5,027 people in hospital, he added. Fully 15,831 hospital beds are vailable and 2,296 are equipped with a ventilator, he said.

The number of infections is expected to increase drastically in the weeks ahead, putting an increased burden on the health-care system, Orbán said.

Most vaccinations are carrried out by GPs, so there will be enough people to continue the vaccination drive, he added.

Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler, he said, had acted wisely by stopping certain hospitals from returning to normal operations because these can join the fight against the epidemic.

Commenting on press reports about Hungary not tapping the entire amount of Moderna vaccine available, he said “we are good at tapping resources”, with 17 million doses of vaccine reserved by the country. However, vaccines ordered by the European Union are arriving at a slower rate than projected and “without the Russian and Chinese vaccines we would not have enough”, he added.

The Chinese vaccine will soon become available to those overseeing the protective efforts, he said.

He slammed certain politicians for being “irresponsible”, insisting that the left wing was involved in spreading fake news and uncertainty, and trying to discourage people from getting vaccinated when this was the only chance to improve the situation.

He asked all Hungarians to register for vaccination and promised that every applicant would get their first jab by Easter. As a result, Hungary could have the highest proportion of vaccinated population in the EU, he added.

Asked about possible EU infringement proceedings in connection with partial border closures, Orbán said Brussels was worried about the European economy being immobilised by curbs on freight, but now was not the time to hold each other accountable amid the Covid crisis, he added.

Every country must protect itself and also maintain the flow of goods needed to run the economy, he said.

Orbán said that whereas he would prefer to defend the European Commission, the body deserved censure for wasting time by trying to obtain a vaccine cheaper, but ultimately its procurement efforts should be supported.

He insisted that Hungary’s strategy of sticking by its national right to licence vaccines was correct.

The prime minister said the country’s vaccination drive was being run “rather well” and was progressing accordingly. More people could be vaccinated at the same time if more vaccines were available, he said.

Orbán warned that in the third wave of the epidemic many tens of thousands could lose their jobs. He noted wage subsidies and job-saving schemes, adding that subsidies were being provided in the first month after the restrictions are lifted.

He noted that 55,000 fewer people have a job than a year ago, adding that at least as many jobs must be created in the coming months.

Regarding recent cyber attacks on government sites, he said the attacks came from “the international arena” as well as internally, the latter being political in nature. Protection systems need constant improvement, he added.

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