Because the import of the novel coronavirus from abroad remains the biggest threat facing Hungary, the government will need to enact further restrictive measures, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday.
Compared with Hungary, the status of the epidemic is worsening in most countries, Orbán said in his weekly interview with public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, adding that his earlier remark that the biggest threat facing Hungary is the import of the virus from abroad was now “even more valid than before”.
The prime minister said the epidemic response measures imposed in the spring had saved tens of thousands of lives. “So we have some knowledge about how to defend against the virus and it’s primarily this experience that we’ll have to build on in the autumn,” he said.
Orbán said that the number of infections was “not irrelevant”, adding, at the same time, that the most important goal was to prevent fatalities.
“It’s possible to recover from this disease,” the prime minister said. “I’m sure coronavirus is not pleasant; it’s painful to get through, but many do recover.” He again underscored the importance of protecting the elderly from the virus, noting that they were the most vulnerable to it.
Orbán emphasised the need to prevent the import of the virus from abroad. He said travel restrictions based on the classification of countries according to the prevalence of Covid-19 that the government introduced in the summer would no longer be sufficient from Sept. 1, adding that restrictions on foreign travel would have to be tightened.
Orbán said that though he could not interfere with Hungarians’ habits, summer holiday plans or how they live their lives, he was still asking the public not to book any trips to countries to the south of Hungary after Sept. 1, as doing so would “interfere with our border protection measures”.
Asked if Hungary’s health-care sector was prepared to deal with a surge in the number of coronavirus cases, Orbán said that in March Hungary had acquired the tools necessary to defend against the epidemic which would be put to use in the autumn.
“Everyone can rest easy. We have all the tools we need,” he said.
Orbán added that Innovation and Technology Minister László Palkovics and Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler had “devised a plan for how we can use our own production capacities to manufacture our own equipment instead of having to procure everything [from abroad] next time”.
Hungary is a leader in ventilator production, he said, adding that there would come a time when every ventilator in the country is produced locally.
“Hungary has good reason to be in a much more balanced state of mind ahead of the second wave of the epidemic than we were in March,” Orbán said.
The prime minister also said that he had received all the help he needed from Hungarian experts during the first wave of the epidemic.
“The culture of national service in the scientific and medical world dealing with health care is remarkably strong,” he said. “I think this is one of the prerequisites of a successful defence [against the virus].”
Orbán added that in the spring experts had said that until there was a vaccine against the virus the current state of uncertainty would remain.
The world today is closer to finding a vaccine and there is a good chance that one that provides some level of protection will be available to the masses, so Hungary has “opened its taps in every direction as it did in the spring”, he added.
Concerning the new school year, Orbán said that though he believed the transition to digital classes had gone better than expected in the spring, such an arrangement was not without its drawbacks.
Orbán said more than 10 percent of students had “simply disappeared from the education system” because they only rarely took part in online classes or not at all.
“When classes start in September it’s likely that there’ll be greater knowledge gaps within classes than there were before the outbreak of the epidemic,” Orban said. He added that although it would be more challenging for teachers to put together material that is suitable for the whole class, he believed they would be able to manage.
Orbán cautioned that digital education should not be seen as equivalent to in-person classes, saying that classroom instruction was still the most suitable method for achieving educational goals.
“Therefore we must do everything we can to avoid having to transition to an unconventional form of classes and protect traditional classroom instruction,” the prime minister said.