“Those countries that lifted restrictions around Christmas have brought upon themselves a third wave of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a speech earlier today in Hungary’s National Assembly, adding that upholding the state of danger and the current restrictions are still “vital” to Hungary’s defense against the pandemic.
Identifying the vaccine as “the only way out” of the pandemic, the prime minister proposed that it is now the government’s most important task to procure as many doses of the vaccine as possible. “For us, any vaccine is good that is safe and has already been administered to millions of people in the world,” Prime Minister Orbán said, stressing that there are five types of vaccines, three of which the PM called “Western,” plus the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinopharm shots. Thanks to the government’s vaccine purchases from Eastern manufacturers, Hungary will now be able to vaccinate 3.5 million more people by late May than other EU countries of a similar size.
“We have a realistic chance of inoculating 2 million Hungarians by early April, meaning that all citizens above the age of 60 will get the vaccine,” Prime Minister Orbán said. He then reiterated his past statement that “the vaccine must not be turned into a political question,” as “those who save time will save lives, while those who waste time will lose lives.”
Touching upon the state of Hungary’s economy, the prime minister said that before the COVID-19 crisis, our economy was one of the “most stable” in Europe with one of the highest growth rates. According to an EU estimate cited by PM Orbán, Hungary’s economic slump amounted to a drop of 5.2 percent, one of the lowest figures in the European Union.
“Our goal was to protect Hungarian jobs – because if there are jobs, there is everything,” Prime Minister Orbán said, adding that with its various economic protection measures, Hungary has effectively protected 280,000 jobs and several tens of thousands of companies, resulting in the same number of people working in December 2020 as there were in 2019, before the pandemic. What’s more, there are currently more than 4.5 million Hungarians employed, with the unemployment rate at 4.3 percent, a figure that is the third lowest in the European Union.
According to the prime minister, after the coronavirus crisis, Hungary does not plan to simply get back to where it was in 2019 but aims to introduce new measures, create jobs, cut taxes and boost investments. “To this end, we are beginning the Action Plan to Reboot the Economy. The action plan consists of seven steps,” PM Orbán said, listing the 5 percent VAT for new home construction, up to HUF 3 million in support for renovations, wage support programs, a wage hike for doctors, the reintroduction of 13th month pensions, personal income tax exemption for those under 25 years of age, and interest-free loans of up to HUF 10 million for small and micro enterprises.
“In the upcoming years, we will invest HUF 1.5-2 trillion in the Hungarian higher education system,” Prime Minister Orbán added. But presently, he continued, there are three major tasks ahead of the Hungarian Government: managing mass vaccinations, gradually lifting restrictions, and rebooting the economy.
Photo credit: MTI