The government is extending coronavirus-related restrictions until March 1, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a regular press briefing on Thursday.
The government made the decision after a meeting of the operative body responsible for handling the epidemic on Wednesday, Gulyás said.
Since they were introduced in November, the restrictions have proven to be effective in curbing the epidemic, he said. However, any easing without widespread vaccination would trigger further waves, and lead to even stricter measures later on, he added.
The government will also extend its special powers for 15 days from midnight on February 7, and request parliament to extend the special legal order in force with a further 90 days, Gulyás said.
The government will review the situation in the second half of February, he said.
Gulyás said the restrictions could only be eased if the number of active infections continues to drop, or if enough vaccines were at hand.
Lockdowns in most western European countries are far more severe than Hungary’s restrictions, as a third wave of the pandemic seems to be spreading, Gulyás said.
Gulyás said that in order to speed up vaccine procurement, the government has decided to green-light the use of any coronavirus vaccine used to inoculate over one million people worldwide and licenced for emergency use elsewhere. Hungary’s public health authority will continue to assess all vaccines imported to Hungary, he added.
Due to the European Union’s sluggish procurement procedure, EU-bought vaccines will not suffice for mass inoculation, Gulyás said. Hungary is working to achieve the 70 percent inoculation rate set by the European Commission as soon as possible, he said. However, it will also need vaccines from other sources, such as the UK’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm, he added.
Gulyás noted that the EU has yet to approve AstraZeneca, even though it has been in use since December.
Regarding Sputnik V, Gulyás said the Hungary’s pharmaceutical authority approved the vaccine after a “thorough, two-month review”. Sputnik V is safe and was manufactured using cutting-edge technology, he said. Germany, he added, is currently looking to approve it. Hungary has contracted enough Sputnik to inoculate 300,000 people, he said.
Sinopharm has proven to be very effective, as 15 million people worldwide have already been vaccinated using it, Gulyás said. Serbia is already using the vaccine to inoculate its citizens, among them ethnic Hungarians, he said.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has delivered 13 million doses to the US, 2.7 million to Israel and 8.5 million to the European Union, he said, an amount which he said was too small for effective protection.