Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said today that all epidemic projections show that during the fourth wave the number of infections could jump significantly and the number of patients who need hospitalisation or ventilator care could also increase, so the situation requires the introduction of new measures.
The number of infections is lower in countries with higher vaccination rate and “the lower the vaccination rate, the more tragic the situation becomes” Gulyás said. Hungary is among the best in the region but still below the EU average, he added. The cabinet has consulted with experts and made its decision at the proposal of the operative board in charge of pandemic management, he said. Giving employers the right to require vaccination has been recommended by employers’ associations, he added.
Compared to vaccination, the effectiveness of all other forms of protection is only secondary, which is why every measure that can boost the vaccination rate is important, he said. Meanwhile, on the topic of migration, Gulyás also said Hungary will send a letter to the European Commission asking it to cover at least part of the costs of the country’s border fence.
Migration pressure on Europe’s borders is growing and is expected to keep increasing,
“It would be nice if the European Commission switched from supporting migration to supporting the protection of external borders, because if we don’t want Europe to be destabilised during the pandemic and the economic recovery then we need effective border protection, which requires proper European approval,” he said.
The pressure of migration is growing as a result of the situation in Afghanistan and events at the Belarus border, he said. The number of illegal border crossing attempts is currently a daily average of 319 as against 97 in the same period of last year, he added.
A debate on handling migration is again under way in Europe, and for the time being
“the European Commission is unfortunately on the side of migration”,
he said. The commissioner for home affairs recently said that post-pandemic recovery was only possible with the involvement of migrants and migrant organisations, he added.
Gulyás said the EC was unable to grasp “the right answer” to the problem, but a growing number of people, he added, were starting to realise it. He cited European People’s Party group leader Manfred Weber who, Gulyas said, had clearly voiced support for the construction of physical borders and called on the EU to contribute to border protection.
In response to a question on making vaccination mandatory, he said the measure applied to getting two shots, and exceptions in medically justified cases would be given in line with the rules already in force in health care.
Those that refuse to get vaccinated can be forced to take unpaid leave,
and if the situation persists for more than a year while the requirement still in force, then their employment can be terminated, Gulyás said.
He said the measure was justified because the vaccination rate had to be increased in order to fight the fourth wave and prevent future waves of the epidemic. More than ten organisations have requested its introduction in the area of tourism, as well as the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, he added. The first shot will have to be administered by Dec. 15 and the measure will stay in force until “the epidemic stays with us”, he said.
Mandatory vaccination will be standard practice in state companies and large state-run systems,
such as among teachers, he said.
The vaccination rate in the public sector is significantly higher than the national average, but, for instance, in the armed forces it is lower. He added that home office was not a planned option in public administration. Gulyás said the vaccination rate in Budapest was around 80 percent. Mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces was not discussed at the cabinet meeting, he added.
In response to a question, he said a study was still in preparation to assess why the Covid mortality rate was higher in Hungary than in Austria.
Some hospitals have already introduced bans for visitors but exceptions would be maintained, for instance, in the case of visits to people nearing death. Postponing scheduled operations or reopening the epidemic hospital of Kiskunhalas has not been discussed because there is still a sufficient number of free hospital beds, he added.
Without citing exact figures, Gulyás said
there were “plenty of free ventilators available” in Hungary.
He also said that the government was not planning to make PCR testing free of charge.