Katalin Nagy: During the week the number of daily infections fell slightly, but sadly the number of deaths did not. Every health professional is warning us to exercise care. I welcome to the studio Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has come from a meeting of the Operational Group. What are the latest numbers? What do they show?
Good morning. The professionals are right to emphasise caution – especially on Good Friday, the threshold of Easter, as in normal times this is when people set out to visit one another and take part in traditional customs and family reunions. This Easter we should be more restrained; because if we don’t keep to the restrictions that are in place today and we relax them for Easter, then Easter could be the source of great distress for us. So I ask everyone to wear their mask in public, and to maintain a safe distance from others. Those who have been vaccinated can move more freely and visit families, but those who haven’t been vaccinated should have regard for themselves and for those who may be infected. So I ask for caution. As far as the numbers are concerned, so far we’ve been looking at how many have been infected and how many have died, but fortunately we now need to look at ratios. There were still more than 260 deaths and more than 9,000 new infections; but now this needs to be compared with the number of people vaccinated. At 6 o’clock this morning, at the start of the Operational Group meeting, the number of our compatriots who have been vaccinated stood at 2,156,680, with 863,000 of them having received a second dose. We have a relatively clear delivery schedule for vaccines, and we know how many days we need in order to administer the vaccines we receive. Based on this we can plan for the future, and in the period ahead the ratio between patients, deaths, available vaccines and the number of people vaccinated will show a positive improvement. The tipping point will occur in two to three weeks’ time. So we’re approaching the point at which the vaccines killing the virus have a noticeable and spectacular effect on both the number of deaths and infections. I have this cheat sheet, this handy chart, on which I can see a weekly breakdown of the expected developments. This morning I received a report that after the week ending 4 April – one or two days after Easter – the number of people who have been vaccinated will stand at 2.356 million; a week later – the week ending 13 April – we’ll have passed 3 million, which will a new milestone; and I see that a week after that we’ll pass 3.5 million. So here vaccination will speed up, more vaccines will arrive, and according to delivery promises more should come from the West. Deliveries from the East are arriving as they should. Those from the West are experiencing delays, but everyone trusts that this will change. Yesterday I spoke with the leader of the Italians – the leader of the largest ruling party – and also the Polish prime minister. They, too, expect shipments from the West to arrive in a more timely way than earlier. Western manufacturers may be able to conquer the disruptions that over the past two months have made the supply of Western vaccines unpredictable, and then the numbers I’ve quoted can be achieved. So, I repeat, 13 April – give or take a day or two – could be the day on which the number of our compatriots who have received their first vaccination passes three million; and this will allow us to take another step towards returning – or moving closer – to the lives we had earlier. What do we know now? We now know that one or two days after Easter 2.5 million of our compatriots will have had their first vaccination. Then the system for the opening of shops and services – or their closure, because now they’re closed – will change. The regulation on this has already been published, so businesses, shopkeepers and workers in the service sector will have had more than two weeks to prepare to reopen their premises. They’ll be doing this cautiously, with safety rules in place. That’s when we’ll move over to an area-based limit, so that there can only be one person every 10 square metres. There are some detailed rules, and I urge both shopkeepers and those working in the service sector to abide by these rules. We’ll move on from there and reach 19 April, when we’ll open kindergartens and schools – including secondary schools. This will bring a further sense of ease into our lives, as we can send children back to kindergarten and school, and parents can plan their lives more freely and can go to work. Then, when we reach 3 million and 3.5 million, the next step will come; but I’ll tell your listeners about that next Friday, not now.
You’re saying that it will be a very significant step when we’ve vaccinated 3 million people at least once. Some opponents to this – who, by the way, wanted to reopen two months ago – now think that they don’t really agree with reopening. They say that we can see further restrictions in Western Europe, stricter measures in Germany and France. Maybe they think this because they’ve ignored the fact that there have been restrictions in Hungary since 11 November, and by 11 April they’ll have been in place for five months.
At Easter, and in general, let’s be more charitable to our fellow human beings – even to those who attack us. Let’s not assume that there’s some unworthy ulterior motive behind their words, but let’s try to accept their position with understanding. So there are people who think that lockdowns can stop the virus. They’re wrong. The first virus that came a year ago and launched the first wave could be stopped in this way, with strict restrictions and isolation – and perhaps the same was even true for the virus in the second wave. But this British third wave, this new type of virus, is different. We can slow this down with restrictions, but we can’t stop it. It’s one thing to slow it down, but we see it getting closer to us every day. Therefore restrictions and isolation will not stop it: sooner or later it will come knocking on our front door. There’s one way to prevent this: not to slow it down, but to stop it, or even kill it. And that is the vaccine. Those who are perhaps less optimistic don’t take into account that many Western European countries have far fewer vaccines than we do. This is why the Germans, the Austrians and the French are right to introduce restrictions now, as they’re one cycle behind us, because they don’t have the Russian and Chinese vaccines. You know that there are countries that have made the vaccine a political issue. I don’t like this, but God knows we’re talking about their countries, their leaders, their voters; so if it’s so good for them, let them do it. We haven’t done that; we’ve said that it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. As far as I’m concerned, vaccines could be ordered from the Hottentots; provided the Hungarian authorities say that they’re safe and effective, we’ll allow them to be used. But there’s something in Western Europe, perhaps a feeling of superiority left over from colonial times, whereby they want to prove that they can solve this problem better on their own and can cope with it better than the rest of the world. But we no longer live in colonial times, and there’s no basis for this sense of superiority. When this crisis is over, we’ll see that about 70 per cent of the world has been vaccinated with vaccines from the East, and the West has been able to contribute no more than 30 per cent. We live in different times, the world economy and science are moving in a different direction, and great economic and scientific potential is being created elsewhere. While we shouldn’t surrender our Western identity, we, too, should adapt to this situation; and the Hungarian government should buy vaccines which have been available to both the Russians and the Chinese. I think this conforms to the new era in which we’ll be living in the years to come. If you’ll allow me, I’ll make an incidental comment. In the intelligence reports a day or two ago I saw an assessment that the British had just unveiled their national security strategy for the next ten years. In this field of science the British are traditionally astute, conducting good analyses. They too are preparing for a continuation over the next ten years of the process that has already begun: the shift in the power centre of the world economy and the world in general from the West to the East. And they need to adapt to this and find an answer to it. So their assessment of the future is very similar to ours. If I translate this into the language of vaccines, it is foolishness, idiocy, to simply reject vaccines from the East for political or ideological reasons, or out of a long-standing sense of superiority. Now is not the time for pride; now is the time for humility. No matter what we thought about our competitors earlier and what we thought about ourselves, now we need help, we need to be vaccinated, and we need to save lives. This requires a different approach. So this is why Hungary is now one cycle ahead of the West, as we have more vaccines and we can vaccinate more people.
Interestingly, the Hungarian opposition always tries to think in the way that the Western elite expects it to and would like it to. Right now we can see – and perhaps everyone has noticed – the contradiction that exists in saying, for example, that people shouldn’t agree to be vaccinated with vaccines from the East, while the World Health Organization recognizes the efficacy and effectiveness of the two vaccines from the East. Meanwhile, for example, there was a 71-year-old local councillor from the [opposition] Demokratikus Koalíció party who apparently refused vaccination, became infected, and died.
So if now we look at that specific case, I can say that the anti-vaccination campaign – and please excuse me for using such a strong word on Good Friday – is a sin. Because anyone who’s discouraged from taking the vaccine could die, and people listening to the Left are dying. Therefore people must answer to their consciences. So we can understand it if some people don’t want to be vaccinated, because not everyone thinks about the world in the same way, and we respect that fact; but even if they don’t have themselves vaccinated, I ask everyone who doesn’t want to be vaccinated not to cross the line of seeking to convince others to follow their example. This is a major problem. And it’s undoubtedly hypocritical for those pursuing an anti-vaccination campaign for political ends to have themselves vaccinated – either secretly or openly. So they discourage others because clearly they hope to gain from it politically, and meanwhile they have themselves vaccinated. I see this phenomenon here, but I also see it being swept aside by public sentiment. So I see these attempts to gain power by talking people out of being vaccinated. If that were to succeed, fewer people would be vaccinated, more people would die, and the increased distress would weaken the Government. The Left thinks in this way because it sees it as a route back to power. I think that this approach has been swept away by public sentiment. It’s simply not morally sustainable, and I also see this in the public mood. The question behind all this is why there is a political force in Hungary – typically on the Left – that wants to constantly rely on someone else. For them it’s not enough to be Hungarian; for them it’s not enough for their country to have its own history of a thousand years; for them the knowledge we have is not enough and the strength we can show is not enough. Because they always want to rely on something else – be that Moscow or the West. They want to follow their movements, and expect them to solve our problems here at home. This political tradition exists in Hungary – even today. It was ever thus, and it is now. I belong to the other world: I trust in us, I trust in Hungarians. I think when there is great trouble, we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Therefore one should build rational, intelligent relations with everyone; but no one else should be expected to make decisions from the point of view of the Hungarians. No, everyone acts in accordance with their own viewpoints; this is the way of the world. Hungarians must be able to stand their ground in this world. Therefore I don’t propose that we follow this or that power grouping in the world, whether it’s on the Right or the Left. I propose that we Hungarians protect our own world – either against viruses, migrants or economic woes. Let’s protect our own world, and arrange it according to our own way of thinking. Let’s arrange it so that we feel good and feel at home, and let’s ward off anyone – whether from the East or the West, from Moscow, Brussels, Berlin or Washington – who wants to force on us anything that is alien to us, that isn’t good for us, that is against our interests. The Hungarian world must be arranged by the Hungarians and built according to their own nature. This is the ground I stand on, what we call politics standing on national foundations. This is why we pursue national policies. Internationalists pursue pro-Moscow or pro-Brussels policies. These two tendencies have always been present in Hungarian politics, and we could trace them back hundreds of years. The rivalry between them determined exactly what country Hungary is and what kind of life there is here. This is still true, and it will be true in the future. Voters must also consider this when deciding on the future of the country every four years.
Do you think it’s conceivable that we’ll have plenty of vaccines, but there won’t be anyone to vaccinate, because only 3.7 million people, say, have registered?
I’ve also been thinking about this question. As you say, the number of people who have registered currently stands at 3.7 million. It’s very important to recognise, however, that among people over the age of 65 – whom I always think of completely separately, because it’s their lives which are in immediate danger due to the virus – the proportion in this age group who have registered is higher than among the general population. And we’ve already vaccinated 81 per cent of the people in this age group who have registered. Today there are 250,000 people over the age of 65 who have registered and not yet received the vaccine. Although this number is high, it should be compared with the earlier figure, and these remaining people will receive their vaccinations in the coming days. So if God grants us life and helps us, then the next time I meet you here I’ll be able to say that every Hungarian person over the age of 65 who registered and wanted to be vaccinated has indeed been vaccinated. Then, incidentally, there will still be quite a few more of our Hungarian compatriots over the age of 65 whom every week on this programme I will try to persuade to receive the vaccine, just as the vast majority of their age group have done. Because even though we’re moving forward with vaccinating younger age groups, these older people will still be in danger if they don’t receive the vaccine. So perhaps we still have to conduct a campaign to get unregistered people over 65 to register. But I think that by next Friday’s interview all of those older people who have registered will have already received the vaccine. So how did we get onto this? Yes, we were talking about the fact that the number of people who have registered stands at 3.7 million. Because our vaccine purchases are now going very well, I’m also concerned about the theoretical possibility of reaching a point at which we have more vaccines than the number of people who have registered. Here we need to deal with two issues. Firstly, I’ve given the Operational Group a week to come up with a clear answer on whether or not people between the ages of 16 and 18 can be vaccinated. Now in the West they say that they can be – not with every vaccine, but with Pfizer, for example. So I look forward to receiving a summary of these scientific debates within a week, so that we can decide on whether it’s permissible to vaccinate secondary school students over the age of 16. The second consideration will come into play when we’ve somehow reached the figure of 3 to 3.5 million vaccinations, when we’ve managed to suppress the number of deaths, and the number of infections also starts falling – what I call the tipping point. From then on we can ease restrictions on those who have cards certifying that they have immunity, either through vaccination or recovery from infection. Then for them we’ll be able to open hotels, and cultural life can start again. It’s too early to talk about this now, but we’ll need to return to the subject when we’ve reached the figure of 3 to 3.5 million people who have been vaccinated. But if people see that certain services and the opportunities needed for a happy community life are linked to immunity and the proof of immunity, then I think the number of people registering will be boosted: more people will see the benefits of being vaccinated, and we won’t see a situation in which we have more vaccines than the number of people who have registered. This is my calculation. I’m jumping a little ahead by a few weeks now, but I think that this is the process that will occur in the coming weeks.
One of the Opposition’s medical and economic specialists has asked why we’re continuing with the policy of voluntary vaccination and has urged for it to be made mandatory – which would apparently resolve this situation. How do you like this approach?
In a factual sense that statement is true. But we don’t live in a dictatorship; this is a democracy. Indeed, more importantly, we live in the free world. Democracy is just a form of government with elections, but we need more than that: we need freedom. Furthermore, Hungarians – and I know my own kind – are very sensitive about this, about their freedom: “My house is my castle”. And everyone has a better idea of what’s needed than the authorities or the elite have. There are usually a lot of people who know exactly what should be done better than the government does. This is in our genes, it’s in the blood of Hungarians. So that’s what we like: we’re freedom-loving. And even if we think something’s good, we’ll immediately resist if we feel that others want to force it on us. So I think that in Hungary compulsory vaccination against the virus would not be possible for adults. I can imagine a situation similar to mandatory vaccinations that need to be given in childhood, but I don’t think that in Hungary it would be possible for adults to be compelled to receive vaccinations against the coronavirus.
The Western media has also been focusing a great deal of attention on your meeting yesterday with Salvini and Morawiecki. Analysts say that there may be points of conflict between the three states. For Poland it would be the relationship with Russia; and for the Italians it would be that they want to distribute the migrants who are already within the borders of the European Union, whereas right from the beginning Hungary has said that it wants no part in that, thank you very much. Could these really be points of conflict, or do other aspects need to be considered?
Indeed, there was a summit yesterday in which we discussed the future of Europe. The Polish prime minister was here, as was the president of the largest Italian ruling party, Matteo Salvini. We always consider the latter to be our hero, because, as Minister of the Interior, he was the man who proved that migration can be stopped at the maritime borders and not just at the land borders – as we Hungarians had proved. The Italians and President Salvini have shown that maritime migration can also be stopped, and so he deserves our special respect.
And now he’s standing trial for it.
He’s standing trial. Sometimes one can’t believe one’s eyes that someone can be put on trial for taking risks and as Minister of the Interior doing his duty in defending his homeland, preventing people entering his country illegally. These are the kinds of conditions in Europe today. So we had this meeting, and we talked about a great many things. The main reason for our meeting was that we feel that those who used to be traditional Christian democrats – parties of the Right, especially the European People’s Party – have made a long-term commitment to working with the European Left. And they’ve committed themselves to surrendering traditional Christian democratic values. They’ve embraced this LGBTQ insanity, they’re downgrading national identity, and they envisage a Brussels-based, federal Europe, rather than a Europe of nations. They don’t want to defend the continent against migration, because they think that migration is good, and only illegal migration is bad. So the situation is that the cooperation between the Right and the Left has actually been realised through the adoption of the Left’s programme. At the same time, there are many tens or hundreds of millions of Europeans for whom the family as we know it – one man and one woman who want to have and raise children – is still important. For them their homeland is important, and Christianity is important. We don’t want to be imperial subjects; we want our own nation states. We don’t want communism, we don’t want censorship – and even though it’s called political correctness, it’s still censorship. So there are many millions of us, and we feel that these developments, these political developments, have left us without representation. This is why Fidesz has left the European People’s Party. Now we’re forming an alliance with one another so that there can be representation for those who think in this way: who believe that we need homeland, we need the nation, we need the family, that Christianity is important, and that we must have freedom and human dignity. We are building this now. Of course there may be differences of opinion, but on the big issues we can resolve them. So, for example, the Italians agree with the Poles – and I share this view – that the Baltic States and Poland need legitimate security guarantees against, say, Russia. This must be given to them. When it comes to migration, the Italians understand that the task is not to let them in – migrants – and distribute them, but to take them home. Let’s not let in those who are coming, but let’s take them back to their homes. What we must do is not to distribute them among ourselves, but take them home, to help them to have somewhere to go home to. So yesterday we reached consensus on these big long-term issues. As I see it, one of the defining trends in European policy over the next six months will be our building of this new Christian democratic right.
We began this interview with the subject of Easter, so let’s end with that now. After all, in addition to being a holiday, Easter is a time for families to spend free time together. But many people will be working all through the holiday: doctors, including those carrying out vaccinations, paramedics and hospital specialists will be working non-stop. When will they be able to rest?
Firstly, the whole country is watching in awe at the heroic battle being waged by our doctors and nurses in hospitals, and our general practitioners in their surgeries. Hungarians aren’t particularly fond of rousing rhetoric, but here perhaps I can allow myself to say that they are our heroes, helping to rescue millions of people from the torments of this disease, its complications, and potentially even death. So this is Easter, but this weekend I feel that our thoughts will frequently turn to our doctors and nurses. Incidentally, we’ll also be working. We’re vaccinating throughout the weekend, and those of us directing the defence operation are also working. I’ve just agreed with the Minister of Interior on how we’ll monitor, direct and assist the defence operation every day. This is the kind of Easter we have now. There are those from whom effort, extra effort, will be demanded. Let’s give them respect and recognise their work, let’s not speak out against vaccination, and let’s not talk about the collapse of the Hungarian healthcare system – because that devalues the work of our doctors and nurses who aren’t allowing the Hungarian healthcare system to collapse. They’re bearing this healthcare system on their backs, and they’re protecting us. Of course today is Good Friday, a day of silence. But what is most important is that on Sunday morning, as the sun rises, the resurrection will come. And then, even in the midst of our present grief, we can think that there will be a resurrection, a Hungarian resurrection. And so I wish each and every listener a blessed Easter and the joy of resurrection. We are on the path to freedom.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.