“I can’t answer this question any sooner than that, but I’m hoping for it with all my heart,” the Prime Minister said in an interview given to TV2’s programme ‘Facts’ on Wednesday, indicating that it will take minimum two weeks before the effects of the restrictions introduced most recently due to the coronavirus epidemic could be determined.
He said he sincerely hopes that some of Europe’s countries putting up a good fight against the epidemic, including Hungary “will be able to organise Christmas family celebrations with fewer restrictions than at present”.
Justifying the restrictions introduced from Wednesday, the Prime Minister said, in the concordant opinion of experts, without these measures it would not be possible to safely provide medical services to adequate standards, meaning that “we would run out of physicians and nurses”.
There are enough hospital beds, face masks, supplies of protective equipment and ventilators, and there are also physicians, but not in sufficient numbers, he said, adding that numbers indicated that if everything continues as it does at present, there is a 50 per cent chance that hospitals will be able to cope with the load.
“Now that we have adopted these measures, there is a 99.99 per cent chance,” Mr Orbán stated.
He also said, based on his perception of public opinion, at this time it is possible to introduce measures imposing rigorous restrictions not seen for 30 years, including the introduction of a curfew between 8.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m.
He said he had reviewed the Austrian measures, and had also consulted with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz before the decision. He added at the same time that on Thursday he would also consult with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Regarding the Hungarian health care system, the Prime Minister said it is in a heroic state, physicians, nurses and all other hospital workers are making superhuman efforts. However, “their number is finite,” and therefore they are seeking to make their work easier with the measures now introduced, he added.
“If everything had continued at the same rate, after a while we would have been compelled to capitulate, we would have fallen on the front of healing,” he said, observing at the same time that in his view, with the restrictions now imposed which are also designed to help health care, “they will be able to cope with the load, they will stand their ground”.
He stressed that “we have very good physicians and very good nurses,” but “they’re human, too,” they, too, may contract the disease, and the number of infected health care workers “is not low”.
“However, the virus itself is not in an easy situation as the vaccine is now on the horizon, and once we have it, we will knock the virus for six, not the other way round,” he said, indicating that there are now medicines – and they are being procured on an ongoing basis – which help to make the progression of the disease more bearable.
Regarding the vaccine, he also said while there is no vaccine yet which has cleared all four prescribed hurdles, there are several which have already passed three tests.
In the case of the vaccines manufactured in the EU, the fourth step of the development process will be taken in January, he continued, and there is a chance that the Russians and Chinese, too, will do so; Hungary has contacts regarding vaccine developments with all three, the EU, Russia and China.
“The most liberating sensation” would be, he said, if different vaccines were simultaneously available, and then – as vaccination will not be compulsory, but merely voluntary – people could decide which one they would like to have administered.
He added, however, that whichever vaccine we might be talking about, at the end of December and in January supplies will only be available in limited quantities, but there will be “a sigh of relief”.
He also observed that people would probably need two vaccines.
The several hundred million vaccines required in Europe will probably be available in April to May, that is when we will finally be “liberated,” he said.
In response to the suggestion that many believe that elementary schools and nursery schools should also be closed down, the Prime Minister said according to the majority, the country must remain up and running even amidst the fight against the virus, which means that parents must be able to go to work.
If children cannot be taken to creches, nursery schools and elementary schools, someone has to stay at home with them, meaning that they would not be able to go to work, something that the majority of people do not want, he said, adding at the same time that if this is what the majority want, they will make it possible.
The Prime Minister said he himself was surprised at the “farewell gatherings” held before the introduction of the curfew, but in his view the question is whether those who follow and comply with the rules are able to convince those who are less willing to do so.
Regarding the monitoring of compliance with the curfew by the police, he said it is good if the police act in a humane manner, but at the same time they must be clear and firm, and the legislature helped the work of the police with the creation of clear and firm rules.
He said patrol units will include both police officers and armed army personnel. The reason why they are required to perform patrol duties together in mixed units is that, according to the rules relating to constitutional order, members of the military are not allowed to take law enforcement action against civilians, but can help police officers, he explained.
He finally highlighted that with state assistance they will be able to make the coming month bearable for hotels, restaurants and leisure time businesses, but this is not the solution, only a way to help them survive.
Soon, however, the government will adopt decisions which will increase the chances of businesses to remain in business, and to even gain in strength in the next few months, he said, indicating that they will fundamentally seek to reduce taxes.
“We must keep every enterprise in business in order to prevent them from laying off people, and in order for them to give jobs to more people who will in turn be able to support their families,” he said, stating that they are not budging an inch on the idea of a workfare economy even at a time of crisis management.