The conditions are in place in Hungary for effective protection efforts against the novel coronavirus epidemic, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said. Capacity is sufficient in terms of available hospital beds and ventilators, and there are reliable supplies of masks, gloves and other protective equipment, Gergely Gulyás told a regular press briefing. He said the government considered the protection of people’s lives the top priority. The number of new infections is not the most important indicator, he said, adding that Hungary’s position, however, was good in European comparison. The number of new infections is at a record high today but there has been no noteworthy increase in the number of deaths, he said. This suggests that the virus is less powerful than it was in the spring, he added.
He also said that an assessment of the results of the latest National Consultation showed that people considered it important to carry on with everyday life, protecting jobs and maintaining normal classroom education. “Hungary must continue to function while making every effort to protect people’s lives,” he said. The aim is not only to protect people’s health but also to maintain the operation of creches, kindergartens and schools, he added.
“Protection was successful against the first wave of the epidemic,” he said. “Everybody agreed in the summer that the greatest threat was importing the virus from abroad. This is why the borders were closed, and strict controls will be maintained in the future,” he added.
Hungary has overcome the first wave of the epidemic with the lowest loss among EU member states in terms of employment figures, he said. The unemployment rate was 4.7% in Hungary in June, as against a European Union average of 7.7%, he added. A total of 4.46 million people held jobs in July, Gulyás said.
Regarding a UEFA Super Cup match scheduled to be held in Hungary before spectators on Sept. 24, Gulyás said the UEFA guidelines did not make it obligatory for Hungarian spectators to be tested. He added that he did not think the event presented a danger of catching the virus. On the topic of the protection of teachers against the coronavirus, Gulyás said the school operator Klebelsberg Centre should exempt teachers above the age of 65 from teaching during the pandemic. Those quarantined for having been in contact with infected students should be tested, he said.
Commenting on the leadership change at Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts and the ensuing demonstrations, Gulyas said the point of reforming higher education was to remove government influence from the sector. “We are not actors but passive spectators of the events,” he said. Hopefully, he added, the university’s new leadership and its students would start talks and teaching would resume soon. That is in the interest of all parties, “except for anyone who wants to create political hysteria at home and around the world.” He praised the new supervisors of the university’s foundation as the “topmost professionals in the country” and said they should have the opportunity to prove their stewardship.
Regarding peace negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, Gulyás called the EU’s common foreign policy “extremely weak”. The EU could have contributed to brokering a peace in the region but let the US take the lead there, he said. “The EU had done the absolute minimum in the region until Olivér Várhelyi was appointed commissioner of enlargement,” he said.