Coronavirus-related restrictions will “certainly remain in place” for Hungarians without immunity certificates until August, the prime minister’s chief of staff told a weekly press briefing on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyás said the certificates would continue to be required to attend concerts and festivals, use catering or hotel services or participate in sporting events “during the coming months”.
Gulyás said Hungarians returning from other countries no longer need to isolate themselves if they have the certificate, adding that the measure was being extended to minors in their company.
Vaccination continues to be free and voluntary, with appointments available online for AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sputnik V. Moderna and Pfizer will be administered as they arrive, he said, adding that the 330,000 doses scheduled to arrive next week will be set aside for 16-18 year olds as well as for second jabs.
Thanks to its vaccination drive, Hungary has been able to break out of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic and become the first country in Europe “to regain its freedom”, Gulyás said.
Some one million people, about 80 percent of those registered, have already received at least the first jab, he noted.
The minister said that nearly 2 million first shots were administered in the past four weeks, with 53 percent of the adult-age population now innoculated.
Reopening the country continues apace, and services suspended since March are now available to certificate holders, Gulyas said. The government’s national consultation on reopening the country shows that some 65 percent of the 500,000 respondents backed the immunity certificate bringing certain advantages, he said.
Regarding international debates on the efficacy of vaccines, Gulyas said it was “easy to see the business interests behind certain opinions posing as professional arguments.”
Hungary has subjected all vaccines to rigorous scrutiny, and “everyone can rest assured all available vaccines are safe and effective,” he said.
Gulyás slammed the leftist opposition for “heading the effort to sow uncertainty” regarding certain types of vaccine. That argument “amounts to the same thing as completely rejecting vaccination,” in that non-vaccinated people are exposed to the coronavirus, he said.
Currently countries only accept their own certificates automatically, Gulyas said. But Hungary is striving to conclude as many bilateral agreements on the matter as possible, he added. Countries entering into such agreements will accept all vaccines used in Hungary, he said.
“Southern states have made it clear they would allow everyone to enter” in the summer, Gulyás insisted.
Regarding the 2022 draft budget which the government submitted to parliament this week, Gulyás said it aimed to give a shot in the arm to economic growth. The document calculates with a 5.2 percent growth, a 5.9 percent deficit target with state debt at 79.3 percent of GDP, he noted.
The economy is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and the government hopes to maintain growth in 2022, Gulyas said.
Hungary’s frugal and conservative economic policy which “refrained from devouring the future”, has been successful, he insisted, adding that the public debt has been successfully reduced, Gulyas said.
Supporting families continues to be a priority, he said. The pension bonus will be gradually reinstated, Hungarians under 25 will be exempt from the PIT, and tax burdens on labour will continue to decline along with support of investment and job creation, he said.
The government has set aside 7,300 billion forints for the purpose of re-launching the economy, he said, adding that hopefully the economy would “return to normality” swiftly after the pandemic.
The health-care system is also seeing a new era, Gulyás said. Government measures have eliminated gratuity payments and substantially raised doctors’ wages, he said. The 2022 budget is allocating 769 billion forints (EUR 2.1bn) more to the sector than last year’s, nearly doubling government spending on health-care in 11 years, he said.