Jun 23, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

National consultation: Seven questions about the epidemic

Out of the 13 questions in the national consultation questionnaire sent to Hungarian households, seven concern the coronavirus epidemic, possible measures to tackle a potential second wave of the virus, and new steps to help maintain epidemiological preparedness should a next crisis occur.

Hungary’s national consultation is a survey in which the Hungarian government asks citizens for their opinions on important issues. Now, with the official questionnaire of the latest national consultation already out, let’s talk about why we have chosen these questions specifically and what they mean for Hungary’s future.

Considering that the most effective measures against the coronavirus have been had broad popular support, in the first question we ask Hungarians to choose from a list of measures they see as necessary in the case of a second wave of the epidemic. These include social distancing, the closing of borders, and a separate time window for shopping for those over 65. Answers to this question will enable the government to handle a potential second outbreak even more efficiently.

As Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a radio interview recently, while the extraordinary legal order is no longer necessary and parliament is expected to revoke the government’s extra powers later this week, epidemiological preparedness must be preserved. With the second question (“Do you agree that the epidemiological preparedness should be maintained as long as the threat of the epidemic’s return is present?”), we seek voters’ support to act accordingly.

With the third question, the government aims to extend protection of elderly homes. While Hungary’s defense against the coronavirus was successful, hundreds of lives could have been saved if elderly homes had been better equipped to manage the crisis. The fact that one in every four victims of the epidemic resided in an elderly home is unacceptable. Such a vulnerable group must be protected.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis also highlighted the importance of stocking up on and producing medical equipment. Even though the epidemic brought about a global shortage of protective gear, Hungary managed to procure the necessary supplies. Still, in order to reduce our dependence on outside suppliers, Hungary’s government plans to increase domestic production. This is what the fourth question of the national consultation survey is about.

The upcoming national consultation’s fifth question concerns free internet access during a crisis. As the country had to convert to a digital curriculum overnight, and internet access became a must for the schooling of children, the government is proposing to implement as a general rule that during an epidemic, internet access should be free for teachers and families with school children.

According to the sixth question, the ECDC, the EU’s epidemiological agency, failed to detect any imminent danger at the outbreak of the epidemic, while competent Hungarian authorities began preparations for a defense immediately. To prevent a situation in the future where the lives of Hungarian people are put in jeopardy as a result of the inability of an EU agency to properly address a threat, we are proposing that a permanent Hungarian epidemiological monitoring service be established.

Finally, the last question regarding the coronavirus puts forth the idea that, in the spirit of proportional burden-sharing, banks and multinational companies should also contribute to the cost of the defense.