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We must tighten restrictions now so that we can ease them at Easter

The Prime Minister added that “There is no doubt that, with these lockdown measures for two weeks, we have reached the home stretch; we are now in the last stage of the war against the virus, we’re in the home stretch”.

Regarding the latest restrictions, he announced that, for the time being, they are trying to keep creches open, while flower shops will be allowed to remain open on 8 March with regard to International Women’s Day.

In the context of the restrictions, Mr Orbán said they had no choice because epidemiological experts said that there would be a “tragedy” unless they took precautions.

We must tighten the restrictions now so that we can ease them sometime around Easter, he said, indicating that they are expecting people’s opinions for the consultation on the lifting of restrictions until 15 March, and the week thereafter they will plan the gradual steps that should be taken to lift the restrictions at Easter.

He confirmed that nursery and elementary schools will have to close down. At the same time, in creches the number of infections is so low that they are trying to keep them open.

He said services essential for daily life, including supermarkets and stores selling equipment necessary for spring gardening will remain open. However, all other businesses, including restaurants, casinos, hotels and electronics stores will have to remain closed.

He also said, with regard to International Women’s Day, on 8 March, flower shops will be allowed to remain open, but after that they, too, will have to close.

He confirmed that the already existing furlough grants and tax exemptions applicable to sectors related to tourism will be extended to all sectors affected by the latest restrictions. He announced that the rentals of tenants for municipality- and state-owned properties will be cancelled not only for the duration of the two-week closure, but for the whole month of March, and the affected sectors will receive both the furlough grants and tax exemptions for the whole month.

The Prime Minister stressed that the second wave of the epidemic was more intensive than the first, and the third wave will be more intensive than the second one was.

He said, according to Friday morning data, there were 6,369 new confirmed cases, 143 persons have died, there are 677 persons requiring assisted ventilation, and the average age of the deceased is 75.5 years, meaning that the elderly continue to remain most at risk. He also said at present 6,867 persons require hospitalisation; however, this number could rise to 15,000, or even 20,000.

In order to manage the situation, we need hospital beds, ventilators and staff, he said, indicating that regarding staff, they will resort to secondment; in addition to the existing internal reserves, they will also move staff between hospitals, they will involve residents and last-year medical students, and they may even be compelled to require the mandatory participation of private health care workers.

“There will be enough beds, there will be enough ventilators, and there will be enough staff, too,” he pointed out.

Regarding travel, the Prime Minister asked everyone to postpone planned luxury trips to dangerous destinations because they could bring back home virus mutations which could risk the lives of others.

According to the Prime Minister, the vaccination plan is making good progress; so far, 862,953 persons have been vaccinated, and up to Friday morning, 2,813,668 persons registered for vaccination.

The Prime Minister believes that by the first week of April, they will have reached 2,400,000 vaccinations, by the beginning of May, this number could rise to 4,700,000, and by the beginning of July, it could be above 8 million.

Regarding vaccine supplies, he said the Chinese are observing their contractual obligations to the letter, the Russians are adhering to schedules with minor delays; however, EU deliveries are unreliable, there is no way of knowing when they will arrive and how. He concluded that the vaccine procurement contracts concluded by the European Commission are unenforceable.

He said we must now change over from vaccinations based on personal acquaintance between general practitioner and patient to mass, data-based vaccination. He admitted that there are some technical problems, in some instances people who have already been vaccinated were invited for vaccination, and some were invited to vaccination points far from their places of residence. Therefore, they decided to reset the whole system, and the data must be reviewed. An operational unit has been set up to solve these problems, and there is a telephone number that people can phone directly if they detect any problem regarding either the system or their own details and where they are also given advice as to how the given error can be corrected.

Regarding the behaviour of the Left, Mr Orbán said instead of the virus, they are fighting against the government, and represent Brussels in Hungary.

Commenting on Fidesz’s departure from the European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament, the Prime Minister said while literally every European prime minister is fighting “a life-or-death battle” to protect the citizens of their own nations from the virus, some “in the Brussels bubble” are more concerned with how to put one member party or another in a difficult position with the amendment of the statutes. “We said, thank you very much, we’ve had enough of this,” he said, indicating that Fidesz and the EPP “have effectively parted ways”.

He said he had spoken to the President of CDU, the Poles, Matteo Salvini, and the leader of another Italian right-wing party. What matters is that “our kind” of people who want to protect their families and countries, who want national cooperation instead of a European empire should have a home also on a European level, he stressed.