Some 70% of infected people live in the capital city and surrounding Pest County, so it is justified to keep curfew restrictions in force in these regions, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás said.
Life can be restarted gradually according to a strict schedule, taking into account geographical differences and the number of virus infections, he added. The safety of the elderly, the most endangered age group, should remain a priority, he said, adding that restrictions under which people over 65 are allowed to do their shopping between 9-12am will be maintained.
Gulyás also said testing will be compulsory for all patients leaving or entering hospital and for the staff of elderly care homes. He said Hungary’s health-care system was prepared to handle mass infections, adding that the epidemic had slowed down and the number of cases in the country was relatively low. He added that in terms of the total number of ventilators in the country, Hungary was “among the best prepared”.
Gulyás also said the government has decided to simplify administrative procedures for entrepreneurs in order to reduce personal contacts and relieve businesses of some of their administrative burden.
The government is lifting restrictions on private health-care institutions from May 4, Gulyás said, so the sector can contribute to the country’s protection efforts. Restrictions regarding specialised and out-patient clinics will be lifted in four stages, with further information on the specific sectors to appear in a decree shortly, he said.
Regarding testing for Covid-19, Gulyás said plenty of test kits were available, making it possible to test one person multiple times where necessary. The government has also decided to speed up testing and to test all employees of retirement homes and all patients checking in and out of hospitals, he said. A “possibly effective” treatment against the disease is being tested in the Hungarian health-care system, Gulyás noted, using the blood plasma of recovered Covid-19 patients. “It is too early to tell” whether it will be successful, he said.
Regarding the topics of possible reforms in the health-care sector which may involve establishing a stand-alone health-care ministry; as well as plans to “re-activate” the 30,000 hospital beds freed for potential coronavirus patients once the epidemic has subsided, Gulyás said it would be wrong to “make political decisions on health-care issues during an epidemic”. Protection measures against the epidemic have proved successful, Gulyás said, praising the sector’s leadership.
Commenting on the opinion of an advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), who said last week that the Hungarian transit zone at the Hungarian-Serbian border deprived residents of free movement, Gulyás said the decision was an important stage in the court’s decision-making process. The final ruling often coincided with the advocate general’s opinion, he said. Last week’s opinion is in contradiction with previous rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Gulyás noted. Hungary has been fighting to protect its borders since 2015, Gulyás said, adding that the CJEU is now “trying to thwart efficient border protection in the EU”.
On cooperation with local authorities, Gulyás said the government “wants to help” but local governments also had to bear their share of the burden “in perilous times”. The government is working to relaunch the economy in the second half of the year, bringing investments to localities, he said. Regarding Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s proposal to reduce speed limits within the city, Gulyás said “hastily prepared” proposals would be especially harmful in the current situation. He called on Karácsony to consult the group leaders of the city assembly on the matter.
Commenting on an interview House Speaker László Kövér gave on Wednesday, in which he said the opposition “working against the Hungarian nation”, Gulyás said Kövér had “shown considerable restraint” compared to comments the opposition had made about the government, “even in a state of emergency”. The ruling parties have expressed a wish for nationwide cooperation several times, but the opposition’s “behaviour” in the past months “does not promise hope of national unity,” he said.