Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said late on Wednesday that vaccination was the only way to stop the coronavirus epidemic, adding that restrictions could only slow down the pandemic.
Orbán told public news channel M1 that the third wave was triggered by the British virus variant which is more aggressive than previous variants and is spreading faster. As long as infections were isolated cases, lock-down and staying at home helped but the current mass infection cannot be stopped, only slowed down with the help of the lock-down and restrictions.
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“There is only one cure and there is only one way to stop it instead of simply slowing it down. It is the vaccines that can stop and kill the virus,” he said.
It follows that all efforts should be focused on vaccination, he added.
Orbán said that as of Wednesday, Hungary had enough vaccines for 2,011,029 people. Vaccines for 2,356,000 will be available by April 4 and for 4,121,000 by early May, he added. These volumes include both eastern and western vaccines, he said.
Orbán said he expected that enough vaccine will be available by late May or early June to inoculate 7 million people. He expressed hope that all registered persons will have received their first shots by late April or early May.
Two and a half million people will have received their first shot “sometime after Easter” which will open the way for gradual reopening, he said.
Schools will be reopened in the first stage, to be followed by shops with a new type of security measure put in place, which will involve allowing one customer per 10 square metre. This can be followed by the third and fourth stages of reopening, Orbán said but declined to reveal details. He said the high number of daily infections and the number of available vaccines were “too much in contrast with each other for the time being”.
He said that once the number of available vaccines increases, the number of infections will change and “enable a rational and sensible discussion about further steps of reopening”.
The prime minister promised to always inform the public one week ahead of introducing the next step and asked everyone to respect the rules. “There are not many rules and they are simple, clear and easy to understand,” he added.
Orbán called it highly important not to give room to anti-vaxxer sentiments.
He said that generating anti-vaxxer sentiments and lobbying against vaccination was more than a mistake, it was a sin, because people who listen to anti-vaxxers and then refuse to get vaccinated could easily die.
Orbán said he could understand that there were some who refused to get vaccinated but asked them at least not to discourage others from getting the jabs.
Commenting on hospital capacities, he praised the work of doctors, GPs and nurses. He said even if great efforts had to be made, there would be enough people and “our hospitals will work”. Hungary’s health-care system is in a much better shape, especially in terms of human resources, than many people had previously thought, he added.
Around half of the beds reserved for coronavirus patients are still available and around twice as many ventilators can be put in service, together with beds, as the number currently in use, he said.
He asked everyone to give as much support to nurses and doctors as possible and not to make their work more difficult “by spreading fake news”.
“This is not the right time to go into hospitals to make fake videos and fake news”, he added.
The prime minister said the health-care system was able to handle caring for coronavirus patients as well as for other serious patients.
Commenting on the vaccination of teachers, he said all teachers will get their first shots “over one week ahead” the reopening of schools which is sufficient for a start. He said he could understand if some still refused to go to class but they should at least not lobby against the reopening of schools because children’s and parents’ interests should be respected and education in schools should be restarted without delay.