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Mar 16, 2020

Coronavirus Update: PM Orbán announces new measures to beat the virus

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced that Hungary will close its borders for all passenger transport and only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter. Other measures will be put into place tomorrow.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced that Hungary will close its borders for all passenger transport and only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter.

During a parliamentary session this morning, PM Orbán said all events in Hungary will be banned starting at midnight on Monday, adding that sporting events should be held behind closed doors unless the organizers cancel those events altogether.

Pubs, cinemas and other cultural facilities will also be closed. Restaurants, cafes and shops will be allowed to remain open until 3pm, the restriction will not apply to food stores, pharmacies and drug stores.

According to MTI, PM Orbán has called on people to postpone all gatherings except for family events, and warned that the elderly were exceptionally vulnerable to the new virus.

Local councils will be obliged to organize supplies for elderly people staying at home and look after them, and local councils will handle this as a priority task.

Commenting on the grave economic consequences of the situation, he said there were sectors, such as tourism, hospitality and services where “trouble had already knocked on the door”. The prime minister said he had asked minister in charge of national assets Andrea Bártfai-Máger to consult with representatives of the most troubled industries in order to introduce quick measures to help them.

The prime minister stressed the necessity of measures to protect workplaces and warned of a serious wave of unemployment approaching. He asked employers and employees to make personal efforts to preserve jobs.

PM Orbán said the new coronavirus epidemic will require a rewrite of fiscal and economic policy.

The budget will have to be redrafted “at all levels”, a task that will be coordinated by the finance minister. The governor of Hungary’s central bank has also become involved in the matter.

PM Orbán added that handling the crisis will be a difficult and lengthy process and requires everybody to make adjustments because “the course of life will be different in the upcoming months from what we are used to”.

The work of people in healthcare and law enforcement will be of primary importance in the upcoming period. The prime minister expressed thanks to them for their efforts so far. He also thanked all Hungarians for their discipline demonstrated in the extraordinary situation and for obeying the regulations.

PM Orbán said he expected the epidemic in Hungary to enter a new phase in the next few days when groups of people could become infected rather than isolated cases. As long as there is no vaccine, “the only chance” is to slow down the spread of the virus, he said.

Referring to the government’s measures taken so far, PM Orbán mentioned the introduction of a state of emergency and banning the entry of foreign nationals from several countries. The government also banned large events and closed universities earlier, and banned school trips to other countries. The government ordered that public education should be shifted to a distant learning model, and initiated construction of an epidemiology hospital.

The government has also set up an action group of Hungarian virologists, tasked to monitor international efforts and contribute to the work wherever they can. PM Orbán said that “even if they manage to develop a vaccine, long months will pass before it is distributed”.

The Hungarian government is in close communication with its neighbors and with all other European Union members, but “we must pass the crucial decisions,” PM Orbán said. Cooperation with Austria, a country bordering Italy, is especially important, and the Hungarian government is bent on adapting Austrian measures, he said.

“We have been in many difficult situations… and learnt that no matter how big the danger is, we have the best chances if we cooperate,” PM Orbán said, and called for joint action and cooperation within the nation. “We need the broadest possible cooperation.”

A call center set up for advice on the coronavirus can be reached on +36-80-277-455 and +36-80-277-456 or by email under koronavirus@bm.gov.hu

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