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It will be appropriate to address issues regarding the relaxation of restrictions around Easter, PM says

Registration-based vaccination to begin early next week

A new phase of registration-based Covid vaccinations will begin in Hungary early next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio on Friday morning. Orbán said Hungary's vaccination campaign was progressing well, with the inoculation of health-care staff already completed. The vaccination of elderly care home residents and staff is scheduled to be completed this weekend, he added.

The prime minister said it was not the right time to discuss the issue of reopening the country because attention must be focused on vaccine procurements. He said that for now “caution is key”.

Orbán said he put his faith in Chinese vaccine since China had been handling the virus longer than any other country and understood it the most.

He said European Union vaccine procurements did not appear to be speeding up, so it was important to be able to purchase vaccines that were tried and tested elsewhere and had proven effective. These jabs will have been tested by the Hungarian authorities, too, he said.

Orbán said that in Serbia, where the Chinese vaccine is among those being used, vaccinations were progressing well. Given that many Hungarians still harbour reservations about the Chinese jab, the Hungarian authorities are monitoring developments in Serbia, he said.

The prime minister said that without the Chinese vaccine, 880,000 people would be vaccinated by the beginning of March, but that figure would double with the Chinese jab. With a Russian vaccine, he added, the process would be even faster.

Orbán said the situation at Easter would be much changed, and then it would be appropriate to address certain issues regarding the relaxation of restrictions.

Commenting on the subject of EU member states having transferred the right to buy western vaccines to Brussels, Orbán said member states should exercise their right to source vaccines from elsewhere. Choosing between a western vaccine and an eastern one should not be a political issue, he added.

Commenting on a vow by some restaurant owners to open their premises in defiance of the restrictions, Orbán said he had asked the authorities not to arrest anyone unless violent action was involved. The prime minister appealed to restaurateurs to see reason and not to risk worsening transmission of the virus. He said that in the meantime the government was working on speeding up support payments to caterers. Fines for transgressions range between 150,000 forints (EUR 420) and 1,000,000, and the authorities can order restaurants to be shuttered for at least 6 months, he noted.

Meanwhile, he said the most important task in respect of the economy was to protect jobs, and the reigniting of the economy would follow. The greatest winner of the government’s action plan to restart the economy will be higher education, with an unprecedented university development scheme under way involving 1,500 billion forints to be invested in Hungarian universities, he added.

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