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Apr 16, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Gergely Gulyás: The peak of the epidemic may be near

An extension of the current movement restrictions, written matriculation exams and other new measures were announced at today’s Government Info press conference.

“After its session on Wednesday, the government decided that the movement restrictions would be extended for one more week from Saturday,” Gergely Gulyás, minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, stated at the start of his press conference today, adding that “municipalities can once again regulate their use of public space on Saturday and Sunday.”

Touching upon the numbers, the minister said, “we still think that the epidemic will probably last for months, not weeks, so we need to be prepared for this. It is also possible that the number of infections will increase again after peaking or decreasing. We have managed to flatten the curve, and today we may have gotten a little closer to the peak, ahead of previous estimates,” he stated.

Gulyás reported that the cost of fighting the coronavirus has reached HUF 500 billion. “The current situation means a loss of HUF 200 billion in GDP per week,” he said, adding that they “are announcing more and more economic action plans, and the government is reviewing the situation on a weekly basis.”

“The government will make every effort to ensure that all equipment is available,” the minister noted. “The task is to make the healthcare system suitable for the period of large-scale disease; to this end, the number of beds required was determined according to the worst-case scenario.”

On the topic of high school matriculation exams, the government has taken into consideration the recommendation of the Education Operational Group and decided that only written matriculation exams will be held this year. Oral exams will take place in only 3,378 cases where it is necessary. “Exams will start on May 4, and only students in their last year of high school can take matriculation exams. If someone decides they don’t want to graduate, they can do so in the fall as well,” he said, adding that “matriculation exams must be held to avoid chaos in higher education later.”

Minister Gulyás also announced some new measures focused on relieving economic pressure on Hungarian citizens and businesses. “The government has decided to postpone tax reports and returns; these must be filed by September 30, 2020,” he said. From July 1, the rate of the social contribution tax will be reduced by 2 percent as well, and there will be areas where the rate of VAT on the construction of new flats will be reduced from 27 to 5 percent. “We are also examining the possibility of extending the exemption from tax contributions to new sectors,” the minister added. Gulyás further reported that the amount of money the government has recovered from each Ministry – to reallocate to the fight against the coronavirus – is public data and available to everyone.

Additionally, due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus, merchants that use cash registers connected to NAV (the Hungarian tax authority) should be set up to allow customers to pay with a credit card by January 2021 in order to reduce the use of cash.