Commenting on the fourth wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began his interview by saying that following a successful vaccination campaign this past spring, the challenge now is the new delta variant, which is spreading faster and causing more severe symptoms. He warned that restrictive measures such as mask-wearing can only slow down the spread of the virus, while vaccination alone will protect against it. He added, however, that if the virus continues to spread at this rate, further restrictions might be considered.
Currently, 10 million COVID vaccines are available, and 5 million more will arrive in the country by the end of the year, the prime minister highlighted, encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. He recalled that employers are now involved in the fight against the epidemic and can require their staff to get vaccinated, adding that this measure is supported by society. Citing experts, he said that less than 1 percent of those vaccinated get ill from the virus, while the risk of getting sick is 10 times higher among the unvaccinated.
Regarding the minimum wage, PM Orbán pointed out that while it is set by economic actors, the government can be there to help reach an agreement. Thus, to get employers to accept the 20 percent increase, the government has reduced their tax burden.
The prime minister also mentioned that it is no exaggeration to say that there is a “public utility crisis” in Europe, as the price of gas and electricity has doubled and tripled, respectively; however, the Hungarian government has fixed prices for households, putting the protection of families and pensioners first. This puts a burden on the economy, but “as long as this government is in power, this measure will be maintained,” he said.
Prime Minister Orbán noted that utility prices have soared due to Brussels’ climate protection program, which is an “unnecessary interference in our daily lives,” and added that the cost of climate change should be paid by polluting companies, not the people. Brussels’ new idea to tax EU homes and cars is a plan by Western Europeans that is being resisted by Central Europeans, so it will be a big question at the December EU summit as to which side will prevail.
On the migration crisis, the PM said that while in 2015 Hungary was heavily criticized for its handling of migrant waves, since then, many European states have followed its example and built border fences. Migration pressure has again increased significantly, and Hungarians are not only protecting the Hungarian border but also Europe’s external borders, making it a fair demand that the EU should pay for at least part of the border fence, he said.
Photo credit: MTI