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Mar 20, 2020

Coronavirus Update: PM Orbán says large case numbers cannot be prevented, but the epidemic can be slowed down

PM Orbán said the novel coronavirus outbreak in Hungary has not yet reached the stage of mass illnesses, but this is likely soon.

During his regular slot on Kossuth Radio this morning, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the novel coronavirus outbreak in Hungary has not yet reached the stage of mass illnesses, but this is likely soon.

PM Orbán said medical professionals say large case numbers cannot be prevented, but the epidemic can be slowed down. The aim now is to slow down the virus’s spread so the healthcare system can handle serious cases, he added.

The prime minister said Hungarian healthcare has sufficient supplies to handle the current situation, but more equipment and materials are being procured to cope with an increasing number of patients.

“We have organized collective defense … the Hungarian community is ready to protect itself,” PM Orbán said. “We have a proper military plan of defense.”

PM Orbán stated that according to recent data, there are 85 people currently infected with coronavirus, six of whom are in a critical condition, and seven are fully healed.

The prime minister said that domestic scientists are very cautious in their outlook, as there have been only 3,000 clinical measurements so far from which to gather proper data. He did however stress that it had been a good step to implement the advice of epidemiologists and introduce measures early on to slow the epidemic down as much as possible.

PM Orbán emphasized that there are enough masks and protective equipment in Hungary. They are constantly producing and purchasing masks, which is not easy due to the border closures throughout Europe. Furthermore, the HUF 10 billion needed to combat the disease is available.

The prime minister stated that the country’s system of defense against the coronavirus is well organized. The government has planned the schedules and stations of doctors; it knows how many are working in healthcare at any given time and who will replace those who may need to leave. Furthermore, the government has named hospitals that will serve as epidemiological hospitals in order to properly care for patients suffering from coronavirus.

PM Orbán also said that the foreign ministry is helping those Hungarians who are out of the country and looking to return home. 

The second step in the fight against the virus was to introduce economic measures in order to avoid mass unemployment and help people to get back to work as soon as possible. If there is no work, it will end in bankruptcy, PM Orbán said, adding that unfortunately work is not possible for all. “Anyone who has lost their job will be helped,” he said. The government is also actively trying to help businesses so that they do not have to let employees go. 

Additionally, due to the government’s announced moratorium on interest and capital payments on both individual and business loans, a total of HUF 3.6 trillion will now remain in people’s hands to use as needed. 

Another measure introduced this week was the identification of sectors that have already and will continue to be negatively affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Companies in these distressed sectors have been granted relief from the normal monthly tax contributions, and new sectors may be added to this list, PM Orbán said.

In the event of a large-scale epidemic, the most important thing is for the task force to tell citizens what to expect next. Presently, a team of virologists is working on altering existing drugs in order to find a vaccine. “We have fantastic researchers in this area as well,” the prime minister said. It is by no means inconceivable that they will achieve some result, at least medicine that relieves symptoms, he added.

The government knows that as the number of people infected with coronavirus increases, the number of people in need of intensive care will also increase. The government is preparing for this eventuality. According to current data, most patients will be elderly, but this does not mean that everyone else is protected, For example, children with immunodeficiency disorders may also be affected by the virus.

PM Orbán further stressed that the government is worried about the elderly, as with the onset of large-scale disease, they are most at risk. Legally, quarantine might be possible, but he wants to avoid this and therefore asks older people to please stay home. The prime minister added that municipalities have been instructed to resolve care for the elderly as well.

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 koronavirus@bm.gov.hu