Hungary’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to enter a new phase, with the start of the evening-night curfew being pushed back to midnight and shops and eateries staying open until 11pm from Saturday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public radio.
Eateries will also be allowed to reopen their indoor sections and serve customers with immunity certificates, Orbán said in his regular interview to Kossuth Radio. Hotels, leisure facilities, zoos, museums, cinemas, theatres, gyms and sporting venues will also reopen and can be visited by accompanied minors, he said.
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With vaccinations reaching 3,911,000 million by Thursday evening, Hungary is certain to pass the 4 million mark on Friday, opening the door for the new regulations to be introduced on Saturday, Orbán said.
Meanwhile, he said Hungary will start vaccinating 16-18-year-olds with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab after May 10, when the secondary school-leaving exams are over.
Hungary now has enough vaccines to inoculate everyone who wants a shot, he said. “Now it’s all up to the people to get the vaccine,” Orbán added.
“But the pandemic isn’t over yet, and we have to behave responsibly,” the prime minister warned.
The economy suffered a deep recession in all of 2020, and Orbán said he would insist on an expansionary budget for 2022.
“I think we will reach pre-pandemic economic levels faster than some may think,” said Orbán, whose government currently projects a growth rate of 4.3% this year and over 5% in 2022.
“We cannot produce a smaller budget deficit (in 2022)… It is a restarting budget.”
The premier, who faces his first tight election race in 2022 since assuming power a decade ago, has leveraged the rapid vaccine rollout to try to shore up his support base.
In March, more than 16,000 died in the nation of 10 million, a 40% annual increase and the highest figure for that month since a deadly flu outbreak in 1983, central statistics office KSH said on Friday.
Orbán also noted that the foreign minister has been authorised to conclude bilateral agreements on the mutual recognition of Covid-19 immunity certificates “with countries that are important to us”. Hungary has already reached such deals with Montenegro and Serbia and talks are under way with other countries, too, he said.
Hungarian immunity certificates will be valid everywhere, Orbán said, dismissing reports that those who were inoculated with the Sinopharm jab would be barred from travelling abroad in the summer as “nonsense”.
Asked why sporting events would be allowed once vaccinations reach 4 million while wedding receptions would not, Orbán said it would be “hard to manage” a situation where those who are immune would have to be kept separate from those who are not.
Orbán said he did not know whether the next stage in the easing of restrictions would come when Hungary reaches 4.5 million vaccinations or 5 million. He added that Hungary should be proud that it was the only country in Europe to have more vaccines available than people registered for them.
Changes after 4 m inoculated
The night-time curfew will start at midnight and shops will be allowed to stay open until 11pm.
People holding vaccination certificates will be allowed to use indoor areas of catering establishments until 11pm, as well as hotels where they can be accompanied by children.
Venues offering leisure activities that were shut in November will reopen to vaccination certificate holders, including zoos, wildlife parks, museums, theatres, cinemas and libraries.
Gyms, swimming pools and skating rinks will also reopen to certificate holders and to all professional sportspeople aged under 18.
Sports events can be visited by certificate holders and accompanied minors until 11pm and they will not be expected to wear face masks.