Gulyás said that although protecting human life was the most important part of managing the crisis, the pandemic would have a serious impact on both the Hungarian and the global economy. This was why, he said, every minister whose portfolios are affected by the outbreak had been instructed to work out measures to help restart the economy
Certain sectors like tourism have ground to a halt in both in Hungary and across Europe as a whole, he noted.
Gulyás said international papers were referring to the economic protection plans announced by the prime minister on Wednesday as the boldest action plan announced so far.
Meanwhile, he said the prime minister will set up an action group to oversee the activities of volunteers helping to combat the virus. The new group which will be established in addition to ten already existing action groups, to be headed by government commissioner and lawmaker Mariusz Revesz, Gulyás said.
He noted that ordinary Hungarians have launched various charity initiatives, adding that the government is thankful for this. He cited the example of private hospitals offering their services and donating digital equipment.
Gulyás reiterated that the state had sufficient funding for protective measures.
In response to a question, he said the government has consulted the central bank on possible measures to help small and medium-sized firms cope with the economic impact of the virus.
He said the government considers any proposal that is not related to slowing the spread of the virus or supporting the economy as “dangerous”, arguing that in the long run they would undermine the aim of restarting the economy.
He said the business closures announced so far were costing the Hungarian economy 140 billion-160 billion forints (EUR 392m-448m) a week, adding that businesses should work to preserve jobs.
Concerning the repayment moratorium for borrowers, he said anyone able to could choose to continue repaying their loans.
Gulyás said he could not confirm reports by Bruxinfo that the European Commission would allocate 5.6 billion euros to Hungary with a view to aiding the country’s response to the virus, adding, at the same time, that he would welcome such a package. He said the aid packages announced by the EU so far would mainly benefit member states that were less effective in making drawdowns of EU funds.
Gulyás said Hungary’s budget reserves stood at a record 492 billion forints, which he said was enough to fight the outbreak, preserve jobs and create new ones.
Asked about a supply of protective equipment to be delivered to Hungary from Hamburg, the PM’s Office chief said the government was “fighting for it” and would confirm the information once it arrives.
He said the government’s priority was to ensure the supply of face masks to health-care workers.
Gulyás added Hungary had a realistic chance of securing a large supply of masks from China in the coming days. He noted that the government has instructed the operative board coordinating the epidemic response to “clear up the situation around face masks” which involves setting up a clear ranking of beneficiaries.
Asked about the defence minister’s announcement of an increased military presence in public areas from Friday, and whether this would lead to the introduction of home confinement measures, Gulyás said no such decision had been made so far. At present, the government’s focus is on beefing up safety measures and strengthening the public’s sense of security, he said.