Hungary’s efforts to combat the novel coronavirus epidemic have been among the most effective in Europe, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a regular press briefing. Hungary took similar steps to those implemented by Italy and other western European countries, but at a much earlier stage of the epidemic, which accounts for “the Hungarian numbers being so much better”, Gulyás said. So far the epidemic in Hungary has not reached a stage of mass infections, Gulyás said, adding however that the danger was still present. “It’s a precarious balance,” he said, adding that the government’s measures “would have meant nothing” had Hungarians not complied with them. Next Tuesday, the government will submit to parliament a proposal to terminate its emergency powers, Gulyás said. It will also propose to parliament that it maintains the state of epidemiological emergency, he said. The operative board coordinating the response will continue its work, he said. Parliament will have to pass laws necessary to maintain the effect of government decrees “with a reach beyond the state of emergency”, he said.
Regarding government measures to protect the economy, Gulyás said so far 221,000 jobs in the country had been preserved thanks to various government schemes. The fostered work programme is being expanded to employ 100,000 more people, Gulyás said. The Armed Forces have opened 3,000 vacancies for special reserve soldiers. Fully 106,000 applications have been submitted for the government’s wage subsidy scheme, and companies receiving investment support have pledged to employ 96,000, he said. Regarding a 500 billion euro package proposed by Germany and France to offset the fallout from the economic crisis in the European Union, Gulyás said it was in Hungary’s interest that the funds should be disbursed according to the same principles as the distribution of cohesion funds. That way, the economic development of each country can be taken into account, he said. “The main thing is” that Hungary and the Visegrad Group countries “win on that deal”, he said. The basics of the proposal are still being debated, Gulyás said. The EU wants to provide the support as a 30-year loan instead of funding, and so the basic form of the support is still subject to discussion, he noted. The EU will hold a summit on the matter on June 18, Gulyás said, with the Visegrad group countries meeting on June 8 to coordinate their standpoints, he added.
Answering a question on restrictive measures, Gulyás said army “hospital commanders” will continue to oversee the management of hospitals while the state of emergency is in place. Gulyás said smaller gatherings may be allowed starting in the second half of June, he said, including open-air sports events, theatre performances and concerts, provided that social distancing guidelines are maintained. He rejected reports questioning the quality of ventilators procured during the epidemic. The equipment has been assessed by experts of Budapest’s Semmelweis University, who found they were in line with WHO guidelines and the hospitals’ requirements, he said.
He said Hungary was ready for a cautious reopening of its borders with neighbouring countries where epidemiological trends and the number of Covid-19 fatalities was similar to those seen in Hungary.