Apr 17, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán: Hope for the best - prepare for the worst

In his radio interview this morning, Prime Minister Orbán spoke about the country’s ongoing preparations for the worst-case scenario in the coronavirus epidemic. He noted that supplies continue to arrive to fight the virus, that hospital management must be kept tight, and that the government has prepared the biggest economic protection plan in Hungary’s history.

At the beginning of his regular morning interview on Kossuth Radio, Prime Minister Orbán said that we still know very little about the virus. “It is worth considering the Austrian example (where they recently loosened restrictions), but caution leads the defense in Hungary,” he added. If the measures in Austria work, the Hungarian Government can also think about easing the rules here. But for the time being, he added, it is worth continuing with the measures we have taken thus far.

“In recent weeks, we have defended ourselves with great discipline in the country to slow the spread of the epidemic and prepare the healthcare system for large-scale illness,” the prime minister said. 

In Hungary, there was sufficient medical equipment for peacetime, but the necessary equipment had to be obtained for this new situation. “Recently, we have been working to have the required number of beds, employees and ventilators,” he added. 

Orbán noted that there are more than 1,000 elderly homes in Hungary, and if just 10 people per home get sick, then that’s 10,000 people. “We are preparing to have 8,000 ventilators and 30,000 beds for coronavirus patients for the worst-case scenario,” PM Orbán emphasized. 

According to the official records, there are 68,000 hospital beds, 34 percent of which were not occupied. In order to have the necessary 50 percent of hospital beds available, 16 percent had to be vacated. In this situation, it was necessary to determine what treatments could be postponed for some patients and what urgent action was required for others, the prime minister said. A medical panel made these decisions and issued guidelines for hospitals, he explained.

“Health professionals are doing an excellent job, but the management of hospitals has not been as tight as expected. The current epidemiological situation requires tight hospital management,  so it was necessary to allocate commanders to the hospitals,” the prime minister stated. 

PM Orbán said that the long Easter weekend offered a good opportunity for municipal governments to put local regulations in place. The mayors seem to have made good decisions, he noted, adding that town leaders have been given the opportunity to make decisions for this weekend as well.

Of the total confirmed cases of infection, 80 percent are in the city of Budapest and the surrounding Pest County. “Sooner or later, we cannot avoid the introduction of special rules for Budapest and Pest County due to the large number of infections,” he added. 

State responsibility is essential, but the current situation requires municipal and individual responsibility, too, PM Orbán said, noting that the number of coronavirus cases will increase further in the coming days. “We have built a huge capacity; we will reach 8,000 operating ventilators, and we have significant reserves,” the prime minister said. Thanks to Hungarian diplomacy, equipment continues to arrive, he said. 

In terms of economic measures, the prime minister noted that there are hundreds of measures that have been summarized in a grand plan. “There has never been such a plan in Hungary's economic history,” he said.

The PM also talked about how businesses need to assess which activities will be needed and which will not. He reminded listeners that the government is offering support for retraining and providing wage subsidies and tax relief as well. 

The prime minister also emphasized the importance of the 13th month pension, which the government announced. ”When a serious crisis comes along, left-wing governments have taken a month’s salary and pensions, and then everyone is worried. I would like to make it clear that this reduction cannot happen and we will provide additional assistance,” he said.