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We’re attacking, the virus is defending

Regarding the latest coronavirus data, the Prime Minister said there are 1,576 new cases, 98 mostly elderly people suffering from chronic diseases have died, 3,638 persons require hospitalisation, and 302 persons are on assisted ventilation. Based on the data of the past three to four days, the Prime Minister pointed out that the improvement of the situation has stopped, and there is stagnation, or a slight deterioration.

At the same time, early on Friday morning the number of persons who have received at least one vaccine stood at 264,530, and as many as around 92,000 people have already received the second dose as well, he said.

Mr Orbán highlighted that if everything goes to plan, by the beginning of March the total number of those who have already been vaccinated once and have undergone the infection will be above one million. At the same time, by 15 March, all persons over 60 who have registered will have been vaccinated with great probability, he said, adding that as a result, by the beginning of April around two million people will have been vaccinated. In fact, he continued, if they are also able to use the Chinese vaccine, by the beginning of April, the combined number of those who have been vaccinated and undergone coronavirus infection not more than six months previously will have exceeded two million.

These numbers are based on the vaccine supplies that “will arrive in the country with great probability,” he said, indicating that perhaps as early as next week, vaccination with the Russian vaccine could start, and “Chinese vaccines are arriving, too”. However, regarding the latter the Hungarian authorities are conducting further tests. It is good news at the same time, the Prime Minister said, that in Serbia where both the Russian and Chinese vaccines are being used, experiences have been reassuring.

He also mentioned that there is a battle of pharmaceutical companies under way in the world at present which is observed with repulsion by potential patients. He observed that, based on statements, he is able to tell which Hungarian Members of Parliament speak up for American or Russian interests.

However, at the time of an epidemic, he finds unacceptable the approach that if crisis management becomes derailed, that has negative consequences for the government. “The Left have gone too far here, they have crossed boundaries which I believe, for reasons of humanity […], no one should be allowed to cross,” he stated.

The Prime Minister described the EU’s vaccine procurement as slow, and a benign explanation for this would be that the Brussels bureaucrats wanted to procure vaccines as cheaply as possible, but “for us […] money is irrelevant, it’s only secondary to life”.

He said he appreciates that everyone would like to get their old lives back, and also understands the pressure restaurant and hotel owners are trying to exert. However, the data of the past few days shows that we must proceed with caution, in a planned manner, he pointed out.

Between mid-February and the beginning of March, the government will ask for the people’s opinions about issues related to the reopening of the country in the form of an online consultation, he stated.

In answer to a question, he observed that he does not entirely reject the idea that for those who are already immune restrictions should be lifted faster, but this depends on the result of the consultation.

Regarding the economy, he stressed that now that the vaccine had arrived, it was time to transition from the phase of defence to the restarting of the economy.

Concerning the protection of the economy, he took the view that they had managed to protect jobs; in December 2020, slightly more people had jobs than a year earlier.

At the same time, they have already implemented the first few measures of the economy restarting action plan. Following this, at the beginning of April, they will adopt decisions which will be primarily about the transformation of higher education, research and development; “we’re talking about HUF 1,500 to 2,000 billion,” the Prime Minister highlighted.

He also mentioned that at the beginning of July they would announce major developments concerning the modernisation of the entire Hungarian energy system, the green economy, the development of a circular economy, and the launch of a brand-new agrarian and rural development programme.

According to Mr Orbán’s expectation, with these decisions, there is a good chance that 2021 will be an unprecedentedly successful restarting year.

Regarding the furlough grants provided for the catering industry, he said payments had indeed been bureaucratic and slow. The originally conceived post-financing scheme has proved to be unfortunate, and it has therefore been changed; from now on, advance payments will be made and settlement will be rendered subsequently. As a result, there is a good chance that the businesses concerned will receive all grants they are entitled to in February, he said.

He also spoke about the programme launched for small and medium-sized businesses, as part of which interest-free loans of up to HUF 10 million will be made available for a term of 10 years where businesses will not be required to start repayment for 3 years.

Commenting on the latest demographic data, the Prime Minister said in the past ten years, Hungary has achieved great results “in the areas of self-awareness and self-esteem”. There are more marriages, more people have children, and the number of unwanted children has decreased, he listed, taking the view that “we Hungarians are in better shape than we were ten years ago”.

He indicated that, compared with 2010, the amount of fiscal family benefits has increased 2.5-fold, and described benefits tied to employment as especially important. “As far as I can see, it is extremely important for our Roma compatriots as well that they are now eligible for child raising benefits in combination with employment,” the Prime Minister added, highlighting that this has enhanced social cohesion.

Mr Orbán pointed out that if the government had not introduced the current family support system in 2010, in the past ten years, 115,000 fewer children would have been born.