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We will manage the crisis even without the opposition

In his reply, Mr Orbán highlighted that “the situation is difficult as it is, and will become even more difficult”. It does not matter what the opposition are afraid of, “I need 133 brave people, the country’s 133 bravest people, and those are you here, on the government-party side,” he said. He asked Members of Parliament not to back down, not to have second thoughts, but to see through the decisions which will help the country, “have courage”.

He stressed that also before he had asked for a common containment effort, and that difficult times were ahead. Therefore, he asked everyone “to pull themselves together, and to rise to the task in hand”.

The Prime Minister said the government does not need a fixed deadline, and Parliament will have the right on any given day to say “this far, and not any further”. They should adopt the law, and after that they can take these powers back from the government at any time, he told Members of Parliament.

Regarding the proposed 90-day time limit, he said in 90 days “we will be in a worse state” than we are now because if the containment effort is successful, the epidemic will be drawn out, given that the goal is to slow down its spread and to prevent everyone from falling ill all at once. The task is to plan the route of the infection because it cannot be stopped, and the goal is to guide it on a path which allows the health care system to remain functional at all times, he explained, adding that the more they are slowing down the epidemic, the longer it will be, and will last for more than three months.

Mr Orbán recommended that they discuss whether they had detected the spread of the virus in a timely manner after the epidemic. They were among the first to declare a state of danger, and took all important measures, he said.

He also told the opposition that they are now fighting to keep Hungary a functional democratic state of the rule of law, despite the fact that earlier he always heard from them that Hungary is dysfunctional, non-democratic and not a state of the rule of law.

He observed that the measures adopted so far are sufficient for the present, but further ones will be required. At the same time, it is not right to belittle the decisions made so far as, for instance, leaving HUF 3,600 billion with the people this year is anything but little.

The Prime Minister rejected claims that they had closed down schools. Buildings themselves have not been closed down; teaching has switched to another mode, a digital procedure. At the same time, children taken to school for supervision are taught and supervised by teachers in groups of five, and there is a chance that the final examinations could be held, meaning that students will not have lost an entire school year, he stated.

Regarding the distribution of protective supplies, he said they deal with this issue at the meetings of the Operational Group, and take three factors into consideration: the quantity of available supplies, the expected development of the number of patients, and the number of health care workers. They decide depending on these factors who should receive protective supplies, in what quantities and in what order, he pointed out.

Mr Orbán said in China 4 per cent of health care workers became infected, while in Italy 10 per cent. At this point, they are also making staff management plans, “things are proceeding according to a military mobilisation plan,” he said.

He observed that the opposition should not demand that they carry out tests on the basis of the WHO’s recommendation because that is exactly what they are doing.

Regarding the possible introduction of a curfew, the Prime Minister said they are considering this option, and different countries have tried different things. A full curfew is probably not even physically possible, it can be considered as an option along with who should be isolated from whom. At this point, they are following relevant experiences, in particular, those of Austria, he added.

In response to the economic recommendations made by opposition Members of Parliament, he said most of these require austerity measures, and would lead to the cessation of further jobs. By contrast, the government wants to protect jobs. They do not want to give people benefits; it is jobs that help, not benefits, he said stating his view.

He also said protective supplies are being manufactured by the state, these cannot be sold on the market, and so when the opposition demands fixed state prices in relation to such supplies, he is asking for them in relation to products coming from abroad. However, if they introduced fixed state prices for face masks, a situation could arise where not a single pharmacy would import and sell these products, and they would not be available, he explained.

In the context of a suggestion that, based on the Romanian model, they should introduce changes in legislation, Mr Orbán said the opposition should be cautious with such proposals because there the government has the authority to amend and create laws within its own competence even on issues which fall within the scope of legislation and even during peace time, and any measures so adopted stay in force for six months.

Regarding the proposed pay rises, he said these requests are evidently all justified, but Members of Parliament should consider whether this is the time to deal with these issues, instead of concentrating all energy on protecting jobs and creating new ones.