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Jul 01, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

A moment of irony

Long-time critics of the conservative government in Budapest, these “experts” are pushing an argument that is in fact far outside their supposed expertise and based on a highly questionable, epidemiological claim.

Responding to an article in EURACTIV by Hungary’s Minister of Justice Judit Varga, Professors Gábor Halmai and Kim Lane Scheppele, George Soros’s self-proclaimed experts on Hungarian constitutional law, try to downplay the significance of our government’s protective measures in our successful defense against the coronavirus pandemic.

While the byline generously lets readers know that both authors are “constitutional law experts who have studied the Hungarian constitutional system for decades,” it remains conspicuously silent about their ties to the Soros network. But more on that in a moment.

Long-time critics of the conservative government in Budapest, these “experts” are pushing an argument that is in fact far outside their supposed expertise and based on a highly questionable, epidemiological claim.

Their claim is that Hungary’s success in keeping the coronavirus epidemic under control has nothing to do with the protective measures put in place by the government because “[s]cientists believe that the routine administration of the BCG vaccine seems to have some preventive effect, in addition to the relatively low number of people over 80. On the other hand, the extremely high mortality rate is due to the fact that the government invests more in football stadiums than in hospitals.”

Regarding BCG vaccination, they are referring to a study dated March 28, 2020, which has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal and cites Brazil as an example of a country with BCG vaccination and a low mortality rate while Lebanon is regarded as a country with a high mortality rate and no BCG vaccination. But according to recent data, Brazil now has a mortality rate of 270 per 1 million inhabitants while the ratio for Lebanon is around 5 deaths per 1 million.

Some scientists out there have made the argument that routine BCG vaccination may have some preventive effect, but many in the scientific community remain unconvinced.

According to a study published by the World Health Organization (WHO), “there is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus." Similarly, evidence from an experiment in Sweden also shows that BCG vaccination during infancy does not provide protection against COVID‐19. Another comparative study from Israel, published in a peer-reviewed journal, confirms that BCG vaccination in childhood does not offer protection against COVID-19 in adulthood.

On their claims of a high mortality rate in Hungary – something that, by the way, seems to directly contradict their point about the BCG vaccination – Profs. Halmai and Scheppele again show a poor command of the facts. There are at least three different types of fatality rates: case fatality rate (CFR, fatalities per reported cases), infection fatality rate (IFR, fatalities in the infected population) and fatality for the whole population. Fatality for the whole population in Hungary is around 60 per 1 million inhabitants, which is in no way “extremely high” (the same figure in the USA, for example, is 387 per 1 million). IFR in Hungary, according to the HU-UNCOVER representative testing, stands at 0.7 percent while international numbers typically vary between 0.35 percent and 1.2 percent.

The bottom line is that Profs. Halmai and Scheppele do not know the first thing about epidemiology. So why are they not pursuing a strictly legal argument?

The answer is simple: Because, regardless of how hard our critics are trying to convince you of the contrary, all the laws and measures introduced by the Hungarian government in response to the coronavirus have been adopted in line with Hungary’s Fundamental Law, by the democratically elected National Assembly.

Regarding their ties to the Soros network, Scheppele has been a staunch critic of Prime Minister Orbán years. She does not have a degree in constitutional law, nor does she speak Hungarian, so she relies heavily on Gábor Halmai as her source. Halmai is a former Central European University (CEU) professor who also served as chairman of the board of the Soros Foundation in Hungary.

These “experts” have never been interested in an objective, fact-based conversation about Hungary because they are driving a political agenda.