The number of Hungarians vaccinated against Covid-19 will probably reach 3.5 million on Friday, and the terraces of restaurants and bars could open the following day, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Gergely Gulyás told his regular weekly press conference that open-air facilities would be open until 9.30pm, similarly to shops, while curfew would start at 11pm, an hour later than now.
Reopening catering facilities is “the first step towards regaining freedom”, Gulyás said, adding that he hoped faster steps could follow since “a significant amount of vaccine is expected to arrive”.
During the next week one million doses of the Chinese vaccine will be received, as well as 200,000 first doses of the Russian vaccine, Gulyas said, adding that the second dose of the latter would follow in a timely manner.
Over 300,000 doses of Pfizer will also arrive next week, he added.
Extending special order crucial to retain ability for fast action
A government-sponsored bill aimed at extending Hungary’s special legal order, now before parliament, was designed to ensure that the country retains its ability for fast action concerning protection against the coronavirus pandemic.
Gergely Gulyás said that Hungary was implementing “the most successful vaccination programme of the EU”, with the number of vaccinated Hungarians increasing and that of new infections shrinking, but warned that “the epidemic is not over”, which necessitates extension of the current order.
Under the proposal, the special legal order would be extended until a certain date – fifteen days after the start of parliament’s autumn season – with regard to earlier, critical remarks by the opposition, Gulyás said. He added that the government could terminate the special legal order at any time when its powers applicable under such conditions were no longer necessary.
Budgets for 2021, 2022 to serve reopening
Hungary’s amended budget for this year and the budget for 2022 to be submitted in a few weeks’ time will be “budgets of reopening”.
Gulyás said that the amendment was necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, adding that proposed changes to the 2021 budget had been submitted to parliament.
Concerning details, Gulyás said that a fund corresponding to 12 percent of Hungary’s GDP, or 6,000 billion forints (EUR 16.5bn), would be set up within this year’s budget to restart the economy once the pandemic abated and the country was close to achieving herd immunity.
A similar fund of 7,000 billion forints will be created in the 2022 budget, Gulyás said.
On another subject, the minister said that catering firms would be entitled to wage subsidies for the month of May, irrespective of whether they reopen open-air facilities.
PM Orbán meets WHO Europe regional director
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held talks with WHO Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge on Hungary’s vaccination drive, efforts to restart the economy and ties with WHO in his office on Thursday, the prime minister’s press chief told MTI.
Kluge appreciated Hungary’s measures to contain the epidemic, Bertalan Havasi said.
Orbán and Kluge agreed that the economy and everyday life should be restarted gradually. The prime minister outlined Hungary’s plans for reopening.
The WHO director reiterated that schools should be closed last and reopened first.
He praised Hungary’s “exemplary” vaccination drive, adding that vaccines should be handled as the most important means to save lives.
Orbán and Kluge agreed that vaccination should not be seen as a geopolitical issue because it is the only tool for subduing the epidemic and all vaccines are effective.