Hungary could receive its first shipment of the vaccine against Covid-19 in late December or early January, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday.
In his regular interview to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Orbán said that those suffering from chronic illnesses and the elderly population most vulnerable to the virus could be vaccinated around January.
Mass doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in April, he added. The prime minister said he had instructed the operative board responsible for handling the epidemic to draw up a vaccination plan.
“It’s likely that in April we’ll all be rid of the epidemic and can declare victory over it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said that from Monday the authorities would apply stricter sanctions for violations of coronavirus-related regulations.
Starting next week, police will have the authority to close restaurants and shops and recommend the cancellation of sporting and cultural events, he said. He underscored the importance of wearing face masks, saying that those who refused to comply with the rule were putting other people’s health at risk.
Hungary’s coronavirus curve is rising, Orbán said, adding that the daily new case and fatality trends were set to remain adverse.
Orbán added, at the same time, that public discipline regarding the restrictions was satisfactory in comparison with other countries. “But the situation is going to get more serious; we need more,” he said.
Concerning Thursday’s extraordinary video conference of the European Council, Orbán said the situation regarding Covid-19 was “far worse” in many western European countries than in Hungary.
In the video conference, EU leaders discussed the need for coordination in the handling of the pandemic through information sharing and the establishment of uniform border regulations, Orbán said. “The latter isn’t really working so far because some countries are more lenient while Hungary is stricter,” he said, adding that Hungary was also hesitant to accept Covid tests carried out in other countries.
As regards the question of implementing tougher restrictions, the prime minister said some countries had implemented “extremely tight” restrictions but were not seeing any improvement in their case numbers.
“So we should just establish some rules and follow them,” he said. “To me, the key is in complying with the existing rules rather than establishing new ones.”
Orbán said Hungary’s health-care system was capable of bearing the burdens caused by the epidemic. “We have enough hospital beds, medicine, ventilators, doctors and nurses even if they have to be transferred,” he said. Hungary has the third largest reserve of hospital beds in Europe after Germany and Austria and the largest reserve of ventilators, he said.
The prime minister said Hungary had originally ordered 1.4 million doses of the flu vaccine but had recently put in an order for another 360,000.
Concerning the legal status of doctors, Orbán said that rules under which doctors could be displaced should be made more lenient. “When there is an epidemic transfers are necessary but in other times doctors could legitimately apply for more humane procedures such as shorter displacement, and preferably leaving those with families unaffected,” he said. He added that a call for clearer rules for private practices was also legitimate. Such issues will be on the agenda for next Wednesday’s government session, the prime minister said.
Orbán said he was shocked at Thursday’s terrorist slaying in Nice, and insisted that “Africans should have a future in Africa … if you don’t want to give in, the only thing you can do is deny entry”.
“If we don’t want to see cases such as in Nice we must not allow them in,” Orbán said. “Apart from the few already here we do not want new entrants, especially not [illegal] migrants.”
The Hungarian government “must not allow Brussels to force on Hungary rules under which we should allow entry to people who we do not wish to see — and then go to funerals”, Orbán said. “Despite all pressure Hungary will not follow the Brussels path.”
Orbán insisted that “the Hungarian opposition is for migration” and “opposition MEPs are in the same pack with those wishing to see Hungary change its migration rules … but as long as [Hungary has] this government, migrants will not come in.”