Apr 10, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán: The epidemic seems to be peaking in other countries, but we are not there yet

In his regular Friday morning radio interview, Prime Minister Orbán discussed crisis management, the opposition, preparing for large-scale infections, and protecting the economy.

PM Orbán said at the beginning of his interview on Kossuth Radio that the content and timing of decisions are important in crisis management. “Making a decision in a timely fashion also means gathering information efficiently," he said. We are now moving from cluster infections to large-scale disease, so we waited to see if tougher decisions were needed, the PM added. 

The prime minister also discussed how the situation differs greatly across the country, meaning that it’s not possible to make one centralized decision. “That’s why we’ve given the mayors more leeway in this situation,” he added.

The government is maintaining restrictions on movement indefinitely; they will review these on a weekly basis, but mayors may decide locally whether they want to tighten them.

“In other countries, the epidemic seems to be peaking, but we are not there yet,” the prime minister said. He also noted that a separate group is watching Austria and southern Germany. In the case of Austria, the effectiveness of its measures have been seen, as the disease appeared there earlier, and Hungary has been assessing developments there.

The prime minister said he has visited several hospitals in recent days. It may not be necessary, but his instinct says it should be done. Two military officers accompany him on these visits, and they count how much equipment is available at each hospital. Large-scale disease has occurred everywhere, so the prime minister does not believe it will be any different in Hungary. When that happens, Hungary may need 7,500-8,000 ICU beds with a ventilator as well as staff. In peacetime, there are some 2,000 ventilators. 

So far, Hungary has successfully slowed down the pace of new infections, the prime minister said. “We have won time, but the real test is ahead of us,” he said. “If we get into the stage of large-scale infections, we will need to be very well prepared so that we don’t have a situation like what has happened in Italy or Spain,” PM Orbán added. 

Prime Minister Orbán also discussed the economic protection measures and how the opposition is still working to overthrow the government even during the epidemic. And yet, they cannot even manage a nursing home. As to the philosophy of crisis management, the prime minister recalled that the left has always resorted to austerity in times of crisis. In 2010, when the current government was given the authority to manage the crisis, they did things differently. “At the heart of our thinking was job creation. This is the focus of our crisis management, for which we take measures,” he added.

The prime minister stated that the country has achieved financial independence and those who could have worked. “The value of everyone’s work is growing year by year. This goal must not be abandoned, even if the European economy is in crisis,” the prime minister emphasized. 

PM Orbán also talked about the fact that if we burden the banks in such a way that they can no longer operate, then the economy's money supply will not work either; people’s savings will lose their value, and businesses will not have access to credit, meaning they will not be able to give people jobs. It is important to understand what the banks can handle, and Hungary has done this, he said.

Even now, everyone has to contribute in some way to the situation, which is why it was important for all political parties to get involved. “If everyone undertakes something, it will have an effect,” PM Orbán added.

The prime minister is convinced that any country who now gets into debt and has a high budget deficit will be in a vulnerable position in a few months' time. Our financial situation must not be weakened in such a way that the situation remains so indefinitely. Under these circumstances, we should not reach a budget deficit of 3 percent. In the economic action plan, the government has thus set this level at 2.7 percent.