Coronavirus enters next stage in Hungary

Hungary will close its borders for all passenger transport and only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter, Viktor Orban said on Monday. The Prime Minister announced several new security measures. According to the chief medical officer, the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Hungary has entered its next stage, going from isolated cases to clusters.

All events in Hungary will be banned starting at midnight on Monday, Orban said, adding that sporting events should be held behind closed doors unless the organisers cancel those events altogether.

Pubs, cinemas and other cultural facilities will also be closed. Restaurants, cafes and shops will be allowed to remain open until 3pm, Orban said, adding that the restriction will not apply to food stores, pharmacies and drug stores.

Orban has called on people to postpone all gatherings except for family events, and warned that the elderly were exceptionally vulnerable to the new virus. “I believe the government cannot ban over 70s from leaving their homes … but I can definitely ask them not to leave their homes, even if we cannot ban this,” he said. Local councils will be obliged to organise supplies for elderly people staying at home and look after them, he said and asked local councils to handle this as a priority task.

Commenting on the grave economic consequences of the situation, he said there were sectors, such as tourism, hospitality and services where “trouble had already knocked on the door”. He said he had asked minister in charge of national assets Andrea Bartfai-Mager to consult with representatives of the most troubled industries in order to introduce quick measures to help them. He stressed the necessity of measures to protect workplaces and warned of a serious wave of unemployment approaching. He asked employers and employees to make personal efforts to preserve jobs.

The new coronavirus epidemic will require a rewrite of fiscal and economic policy, Orban said. The budget will have to be redrafted “at all levels”, a task that will be coordinated by the finance minister, he said in parliament. The governor of Hungary’s central bank has also become involved in the matter, Orban said.

Orban added that handling the crisis will be a difficult and lengthy process and requires everybody to make adjustments because “the course of life will be different in the upcoming months from what we are used to”. The work of people in health care and law enforcement will be of primary importance in the upcoming period, he said and expressed thanks to them for their efforts so far. He also thanked all Hungarians for their discipline demonstrated in the extraordinary situation and for obeying the regulations. “Cooperation and discipline are our most important assets,” Orban said.

Referring to the government’s measures taken so far, Orban mentioned the introduction of a state of emergency and banning the entry of foreign nationals from several countries. The government also banned large events and closed universities earlier, and banned school trips to other countries. The government ordered that public education should be shifted to a distant learning model, and initiated construction of an epidemiology hospital.

The government has also set up an action group of Hungarian virologists, tasked to monitor international efforts and contribute to the work wherever they can, Orban said, adding that “even if they manage to develop a vaccine, long months will pass before it is distributed”. He said that the virus had made its way into Hungary from Iran, Italy and Israel. There is no global solution to prevent the epidemic, and each country must develop a protection strategy of their own, Orban said, adding that “it was like that when we had the economic and immigration crises, and at the times of the floods”. The Hungarian government is in close communication with its neighbours and with all other European Union members, but “we must pass the crucial decisions”, Orban said.

Cooperation with Austria, a country bordering Italy, is especially important, and the Hungarian government is bent on adapting Austrian measures, Orban said. “We have been in many difficult situations… and learnt that no matter how big the danger is, we have the best chances if we cooperate,” Orban said, and called for joint action and cooperation within the nation. “We need the broadest possible cooperation.”

Epidemic enters new stage, says chief medical officer

The outbreak of the new coronavirus in Hungary has entered its next stage, going from isolated cases to clusters, chief medical officer Cecilia Muller said. The cases identified in the country so far were either individual ones or within smaller communities, she told a press conference after a meeting of the operative board coordinating the epidemic response. But in the coming days the epidemic is expected to appear in clusters, she said, adding that at this stage it would be impossible to trace infections. Muller advised those who could to stay at home and minimise social contact, saying all contact with others presented a risk of infection.

She said that besides the National Centre for Public Health (NNK), two additional labs would begin testing samples for the virus and more hospitals would treat patients. If the number of Covid-19 patients rises, infectology departments outside Budapest will also be involved in treating them, she said. Muller said that though there was sufficient space in hospitals for quarantining people, the authorities are also ordering people to home quarantine.

Source and photo: MTI


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