The second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is “more serious” than the first, but “the country and its health services are far more ready for the challenge”, the prime minister’s chief of staff told a regular government press briefing on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyás said the government trusted that the new restrictions over the next thirty days would stop the spread of the virus and health capacity would be sufficient to treat patients requiring intensive care, Gulyás said.
He said Hungary was monitoring the practices of neighbouring countries, especially those of Austria. “The same measures in Hungary have resulted in far lower case numbers,” he said.
Hungary, he said, had the highest number of ventilators per million people and the third-highest number of hospital beds and intensive care beds in the European Union.
On the subject of working rules for MPs, he said: “If Hungarian employees are expected to do their jobs in this difficult situation, then the same can be expected of members of parliament”. The rules, he added, are designed to ensure that everyone can continue working to the full. Referring to critical remarks about government-sponsored rules related to the epidemic, he said that lawmakers “cannot be exempted” from doing their job.
“In the spring, a rumour spread outside Hungary that parliament was not functioning, whereas in reality it had been sitting all along, unlike other countries and the European Parliament,” Gulyás said.
Meanwhile, answering a question about whether teachers of church-run and private schools would be subject to the national coronavirus testing programme, Gulyás said all school staff would be tested”, adding that the central board in charge of managing the coronavirus epidemic would decide on follow-up testing of health-care staff and teachers.
Asked about the US-German coronavirus vaccine, Gulyás said that so far the government has signed a 13 billion forint deal with a single company for 6.5 million doses. He said the government must try to obtain any other vaccine that has been tested three times, is proven to save lives, and can be imported before the US-German vaccine is made available.
Talks are under way with Israeli, Russian, and Chinese parties “concerning any vaccine that cannot be obtained through EU ties”.
Vaccinations will be provided on a voluntary basis and free of charge “no matter which vaccine is available”, Gulyás said, emphasising that only vaccines that are not harmful would be procured. Talks “with all parties” are under way on licencing the vaccine so that it can be produced in Hungary, the chief of staff added.
Answering a question concering homeless services, Gulyas said: “Nobody should sleep on the street in the second half of November, irrespective of the epidemic”. He noted that municipalities are obliged to run homeless shelters, adding that rooms should be made available for homeless people who have not yet been tested for coronavirus. The government, he said, was ready help with legal changes if necessary.
Meanwhile, Gulyas said reports that the government wanted to subsidise the pay of footballers “in the million-forint range” was a “rumour”.
The minister said the government would soon make a decision on making internet services free of charge for families and teachers teaching and learning online.
On another subject, Gulyás said that the government would consider the chamber of doctors’ proposals when passing new rules on the mandatory transfer of doctors from one locality to another during the epidemic, and would be “lenient” in terms of planned rules that would ban doctors from taking up second jobs. He said the new rules would be “open and flexible”, ensuring doctors “a new legal status and significantly higher salaries”. He added, however, that “hospitals and patients have the right to expect doctors to spend their working hours doing hospital jobs”.
On the topic of the government’s recent move to ban single people from adopting a child, with minor exceptions, he said a child’s physical and mental development was best served by an upbringing involving both a mother and father, and the policy was “reasonable and in the interests of children”.
Asked about the US presidential election, Gulyás said an official result had yet to be declared. Had a similar situation arisen in Hungary with similar irregularities, a US Democratic administration would have censured Hungary, he said.
Exporting democracy, he added, was “very dangerous” because “little may be left of it at home”.
Gulyás insisted that the Obama administration had fallen short in finding common solutions to common goals, and whether the Biden administration would fare any better was an open question.