The Prime Minister highlighted that “we are now smarter than we were” because we have experience. “In March, we were totally baffled as to what kind of a virus this was, where it came from […]. Today, we have many months’ experience behind us, and we also have a national consultation,” he said, stressing that the success of the fight against the virus also depends on whether the people support the measures implemented by the government.
He said around 1.7 to 1.8 million people sent back the consultation questionnaires. “1.8 million people sat down in their kitchens, husband and wife, or husband and wife with their children, they pulled the government’s questionnaire in front of themselves, and instead of saying ‘go to hell,’ they said ‘let’s see what this is about’,” he said, adding that this gives both the country and the government great strength.
The Prime Minister identified three tasks: saving lives – protecting those most at risk, the elderly, creating the conditions necessary for the operation of schools, and boosting the economy because “if we are compelled to bring the economy to a halt again, we will all find ourselves in a very difficult position”.
At the same time, Mr Orbán asked young people to observe the rules because their grandparents’ and parents’ lives are primarily in their hands, and if they are undisciplined, they will pose a great threat to the elderly.
He also said “we are all grateful” to Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler and Interior Minister Sándor Pintér because after the victory over the first wave of the epidemic they did not sit back and relax; they immediately urged preparations for the second wave and spent the whole summer doing that.
Regarding hospital capacity, the Prime Minister said in the spring Hungarian health care underwent a drill so that today “we know precisely what we must do even in the worst imaginable scenario”. With some exaggeration, “we know every ventilator by their name,” and now the country also has its own manufacturing capacity; other than a vaccine – which he believes will take some time to be released – we are able to manufacture everything, he added.
The Prime Minister also spoke about testing, pointing out that they follow the protocol of the World Health Organization (WHO), and they will continue testing – the same as before – according to these international standards.
He highlighted that in the whole of Europe, Hungary contained the virus most successfully, and therefore we must be cautious with any change in order not to create a situation that is worse than what we have managed to achieve so far.
Hungary measures the success of the fight against the virus in human lives, he continued, and “in that department, we won the first battle”. In Sweden which has a comparable population, ten times as many people died as here, Mr Orbán observed, warning that Hungary must be very careful in changing any of the elements of the tried and tested compact defence system in order to avoid a contrary effect.
In the context of the fact that due to the recently introduced travel restrictions the EU warned Hungary that they “cannot discriminate” against citizens of EU Member States, the Prime Minister said Brussels bureaucrats must understand that the V4 countries have forged intensive disease control cooperation, and Hungary is safe as regards the containment efforts of the other three Visegrád countries. There are also many consultations with Austria, but “I would rather wait regarding them,” he added.
Concerning the border closure, he said the virus is already inside Hungary, we must slow down and curb its spread within the borders, but we must also cut the external “supply lines” and this is why they introduced travel restrictions to which there are exceptions. He indicated at the same time that also on Friday they will hold a cabinet meeting where they will finetune the details in order to achieve “maximum freedom, whilst maintaining all the important and necessary restrictions”.
In response to EU criticisms levelled at the closure of Hungary’s borders, Mr Orbán said today they can say whatever they like, but “within a few days, they will do exactly what we’re doing now” because they themselves will not be able to curb the epidemic unless they introduce a new protocol at their borders. Therefore, he expects other countries to follow the Hungarian example, and then the whole matter will be removed from the agenda.
Regarding the start of the school year, he said in the spring they introduced a general rule applicable to all schools because they were facing an unknown enemy; today, however, there is no need for such a general rule as the virus will not appear everywhere. At the same time, if the rate of the infection is so intensive in one school or another that it is better to change over to digital education, they will be able to do so. However, this does not mean that a school in a small settlement which has never seen a child with coronavirus infection should also follow suit.
In the context of the one-time payment of HUF 500,000 for teachers in disadvantaged regions, Mr Orbán said he himself was surprised by the decision because Minister Miklós Kásler made this decision within his own competence, but he congratulated him because it was a good decision. It is an old debate that the challenge physicians and teachers face in disadvantaged small settlements is not the same as that faced in the 5th district of Budapest, and one could see already 30 years ago that without measures implemented by the state qualified, highly-educated people will not rush to apply for these jobs, he explained. He added that already back then the idea emerged that there should be – for instance – a special quota, but no decision has been made on this matter ever since. The solution now resorted to is not system-level, and therefore, we must return to this issue in the next few months, he said.
Finally, speaking about the conference held in Bled at the beginning of the week, the Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that major changes are taking place in the world which concern the place of the West, Europe and Central Europe in it. In this regard, seeing the results of the Polish economy, he expects Poland to become Europe’s new Germany in 10 years’ time.