In his regular Friday morning interview on public radio, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that while in the past year we had to slow down the spread of the coronavirus through lockdowns, today we need a different approach, one that’s based on vaccination and a gradual reopening. “The vaccine is like a bulletproof vest,” PM Orbán said.
“By Thursday evening, we had vaccinated more than 3.9 million people, and this means that we will reach 4 million vaccinated on Saturday, so the new rules can come into effect,” the prime minister said, adding that, starting tomorrow, bars, restaurants and cultural and sports facilities may reopen their indoor areas and remain open until 11 p.m. Meanwhile, the nighttime curfew will be pushed back one hour to start at midnight.
According to PM Orbán, the government also decided this week that those between the age of 16 and 18 can only be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and that the administration of these jabs will begin after May 10, when high school final exams are over. “Beginning tomorrow, we will need to start piling up reserves of the Pfizer vaccine,” the PM said, explaining that this is why the vaccine will not be available for other age groups in the upcoming weeks.
“We are the only country [in Europe] that has gotten to the point where if someone wants to receive the shot, they can register and get vaccinated in a matter of days,” PM Orbán said. In his view, while “it is not proper to brag about success,” if we exchange the word “success” for “performance,” then we must be proud of the fact that we are the first ones in Europe to have achieved this important milestone.
Regarding this week’s European Parliament debate about accepting “Eastern” vaccines in Europe for international travel, Prime Minister Orbán said that every Hungarian, regardless of the vaccine they received, will be able to travel abroad this summer, should they choose to do so. The PM said that he had asked Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó to set up bilateral agreements with other countries about accepting each other’s immunity passes. He also revealed that a deal has already been reached with Montenegro and Serbia.
Switching the subject to Hungary’s economic reboot, the prime minister said that the 2022 budget will be the “budget of the reopening” and will therefore be different from ordinary ones. “Our national approach to crisis management is different from the one supported by the Left,” PM Orbán added, further stating that “Hungary will reach the level of economic performance that we had before the pandemic faster than many would expect.”
As to the structural reform of Hungarian higher education institutions, a proposal that parliament adopted earlier this week, Prime Minister Orbán said that most of the world’s leading universities function in a flexible, foundation-like format, and Hungary’s new system will introduce a similar approach. “This natural development of Hungary’s higher education system could not take place [previously] because the communists deprivatized everything,” the PM said.
Regarding Mother’s Day this Sunday, Prime Minister Orbán said, “Mothers must be respected,” as “what they have demonstrated during the pandemic is truly exemplary.”