The Prime Minister highlighted that at present there are some 400,000 persons who have already undergone the disease caused by the coronavirus or have been vaccinated. This is a low number, and we can start considering returning to normal life once sufficient vaccines are available for the inoculation of health care workers, the residents of social care homes, persons over the age of 60 who suffer from chronic diseases, those who are otherwise engaged in the fight against the coronavirus, including members of the government, and the elderly. It is at this point that we will be able to consider how and under what timetable we could get rid of restrictions, he said, adding that everything depends on the number of vaccines we will be able to procure.
Regarding the licensing of vaccines in the European Union, Mr Orbán pointed out that if only one or two vaccines are licensed, that will not create a competitive situation. Manufacturers will, however, only be stirred into action if there is competition.
He observed that several firms have vaccines for which Brussels has to date failed to issue licences, despite the fact that elsewhere they have been used for some time and are even cheaper than the vaccines licensed on the continent.
He said at the EU summit on Thursday, the Polish Prime Minister spoke up on behalf of the Visegrád countries, asking the question that if AstraZeneca is deemed good enough in Britain, why it is not deemed good enough for the Europeans and why the EU has not yet issued a licence for their vaccine. What we need is vaccines, not explanations, and if they are not forthcoming from Brussels, we must procure them from elsewhere because “it is an untenable situation that Hungarian people should die just because the procurement of vaccines in Brussels is too slow,” he stated.
The Prime Minister said he does not want to engage in a tug of war with Brussels because that would be a political tug of war. Now, however, human lives are at stake. After the crisis, it will be possible to come back to the question of whether, instead of the centralisation of vaccine procurements, it would have been better for each country to take care of its own procurements; after the crisis, it will be possible to discuss whether Brussels did the right thing or not. Now, however, “we are in trouble”.
He said on Friday the Hungarian Foreign Minister is conducting talks in Moscow, and it is to be hoped that he will procure as many vaccines as possible. They are engaged in advanced talks with China, but vaccines will only be procured from that source once a licence has been issued, he said, adding that in Vojvodina, in Serbia the Chinese vaccine is already in use.
He observed that there are ongoing talks about the vaccine of AstraZeneca.
Mr Orbán said they cannot lift the restrictions in effect until mass vaccination starts. The second wave “hit us hard,” and major forces had to be mobilised to curb it.
He said, based on this morning’s data, there are 1,311 new infections, 98 persons have died, and 3,959 persons are in hospital, including 274 requiring assisted ventilation.
He also said they will make a decision next week regarding students in their final year of secondary school and their teachers, whether “they should be moved forward” on the list of vaccination priorities. However, at this time, it is premature to talk about how to lift restrictions, it is important for everyone to observe the rules, he pointed out.
He further mentioned that the government has the authority to introduce the special legal order for two weeks. After that, the spring session of parliament will begin, and they will then seek its advice on the matter.
He believes the most important conclusion is that a serious country such as Hungary cannot afford to have to go around the world, begging for vaccines in the midst of such a pandemic. It was a humiliating enough situation last year when ventilators had to be procured; this is why ventilator production has been launched in Hungary, he recalled.
He said they had ordered the construction of a factory which would be able to manufacture vaccines in large numbers in any situation when a vaccine was developed. This factory is being constructed in Debrecen.
The Prime Minister also highlighted that work is the key to the economy, and he focuses primarily on the number of jobs. In December, four thousand more people were in employment than a year earlier, he stated.
He pointed out that the Hungarian crisis management approach is based on the protection of jobs, and this requires resilient businesses. This is why they have introduced the credit debt repayment moratorium and cut taxes, given that in times of a crisis we need tax cuts and developments, not austerity measures, he said.
Left-wing governments were convinced that companies and banks must be saved, and to do so, funds must be taken away from the people. Hence the austerity measures and tax increases introduced at the time, he said. However, this approach did not work; therefore, they are now reducing taxes, are re-introducing the 13th monthly pension, are abolishing personal income tax for those under 25 and are supporting families, he listed. He added that the current crisis management is working, and is opening up new perspectives.
Mr Orbán said there is a debate in the EU about whether there is a need for issuing certificates to those who have already contracted the coronavirus or have been vaccinated, and they share the view that a common database should be created. However, at this time, the possibility of this has only just emerged, and we have yet to wait for specific answers.
He also highlighted that an important step had been taken when they had accepted the proposal of the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors about pay rises. They are now making efforts to adjust the salaries of other physicians to this pay scale, and are encouraging general practitioners to create practice partnerships and to combine forces. At the same time, dentists will be awarded the same treatment as general practitioners, he added.
Finally, the Prime Minister pointed out that whether Hungary is a country with Christian culture is not a question for political debates; it is a fact, there is no point in discussing whether we belong to Christian culture in Europe.