In his regular Friday morning interview on Kossuth Rádió, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the decision to tighten restrictions was preceded by talks with epidemiological experts, who clearly stated that we will be facing a disaster if further measures are not taken. “If we want to be able to eventually open, we have to close now,” the prime minister underlined.
“We are on the verge of the hardest period of the pandemic,” the PM said, adding that new measures had to address the fact that the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is worse than both the first and the second waves.
Summarizing the measures, Viktor Orbán said that in addition to secondary schools, primary schools will also introduce online education and kindergartens will be closed; nursery schools, however, will remain open for the time being due to low infection rates at these facilities.
With the exception of florist shops, which will remain open exclusively this Monday in view of International Women’s Day, only businesses “necessary for daily living” can stay open starting March 8. He emphasized that throughout March, wage support and tax benefits will be extended to those businesses that have to close and their rental fees will be waived as well.
The prime minister said there is no uniform expert opinion yet on what the future may bring with these restrictions; however, he believes “we are nearing the finish line” and expressed hope that as of March 22, we can gradually start the reopening.
Mass vaccinations are on track, with more than 800,000 people having been inoculated so far, Viktor Orbán stressed, adding that more than 2 million citizens have registered for the vaccine. However, the healthcare system is facing a massive challenge, as the number of those hospitalized may grow to 15,000-20,000. “We need hospital beds, ventilators and professionals,” thus medical students and even private healthcare workers may be asked to help.
The PM called the EU’s vaccine supply “tragic,” while Russian and Chinese vaccines are being delivered in an essentially timely manner and in adequate quantities.
On recent developments within the EU, as party chairman, Orbán called it a “technical issue” that Fidesz is still inside the European People's Party, adding that “our paths have essentially parted.” The prime minister has so far consulted with two Italian parties and one Polish party on the renewal of European politics, underlining that the fundamentals of any group Fidesz joins will be the protection of the Christian European tradition and the concept of the family, both of which need to be represented at the European level.