“We are not making swifter progress not because Hungarian health care would not be able to vaccinate people more swiftly and in mass, but because we don’t have enough vaccines,” the Prime Minister said, adding that so far 105,728 persons have been vaccinated. He pointed out that Britain, which left the EU earlier, has already vaccinated some 4 per cent of its population, while in the EU this percentage is below 1 per cent due to the fact that there are not enough vaccines available. However, at this time, in times of trouble, instead of pointing the finger at Brussels, we must procure more vaccines, Mr Orbán stated, indicating that Hungary is able to procure Chinese vaccines in mass; this is now only subject to the licensing of the product by the Hungarian health authority. He hopes that the authority will give a clear answer within days. He added that the Operational Group concluded at its meeting that there is no such risk that this vaccine could do more harm than good.
The Chinese vaccine could be made available to the people within a few days, Mr Orbán said. He also reported the latest coronavirus data; according to these, 111 persons have died and 1,513 persons have been infected in the past 24 hours. It gives rise to optimism, however, that 4,717 persons have recovered which means that more people are recovering than becoming infected, meaning that we have managed to curb the second wave of the epidemic, he said. It is bad news, however, in the Prime Minister’s view that in many places in Europe a third wave “has kicked the door in on those living there”. The Prime Minister also highlighted that in Hungary trust in the vaccine is increasing continuously, and after the vaccination of health care workers and the residents of social care homes, persons over the age of 60 and/or suffering from chronic diseases will be next, more than 1.7 million persons in total.
“We would, in actual fact, have this many vaccines if we had the licence,” he observed. According to the Operational Group, “at a calm pace” in a single weekend as many as 1.5 million people could be vaccinated, meaning that, according to the information at our disposal at present, “all those registering or who have already registered could be vaccinated in a single weekend, over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or also Thursday,” he explained. The Prime Minister spoke in words of praise about the preparedness of Hungarian health care which, he said, has not crashed, not a single person has been left without treatment, and the resilience of the system is standing its ground also by international standards. Regarding the fact that European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides asked Member States not to engage in separate negotiations with vaccine manufacturers, Mr Orbán said every day more than a hundred Hungarians are dying, “a Greek commissioner can’t tell me what to do”.
In the context of the restrictions in effect, he said “we want to get our old lives back,” but if we keep proceeding at the pace of the Brussels vaccine procurements, we will have only vaccinated a number of people sufficient for the lifting of restrictions by the end of the summer or the autumn. If, however, the health care authority completes its job, and the people accept and choose the Chinese vaccine, it will be possible to proceed with vaccination so swiftly that we could get “our old lives” back well before the summer, he stated. Regarding the opposition’s policy related to the epidemic and the video recorded in a morgue which was posted by independent Member of Parliament Ákos Hadházy, the Prime Minister said for left-wing parties nothing is sacred. “The Hungarian Left have gone too far,” as in times of a crisis the mentality that what is bad for the country is good for the Left is a lethal approach, he stated.
Commenting on the increase in industrial production figures, the Prime Minister said people want to work, they want to live off work, and Hungarian businesses are now on a par with their Western counterparts in terms of competitiveness. At the same time, the government is pursuing an economic crisis management policy which focuses on job retention, investments and tax cuts. He mentioned that in December more people had jobs than a year earlier. Last year, the government reduced central taxes by HUF 432 billion, they have also cut the local trade tax, and as a result, HUF 180 billion will have been left with businesses, he said, observing that rather than regrouping the funds arising from the reduction of the local trade tax to the central budget, that money has been left with businesses.
He further spoke about the credit debt repayment moratorium as a result of which HUF 3,000 billion have been left with families and businesses. The government has also started the gradual re-introduction of the 13th monthly pension, and so in February the envelope will contain an extra week’s pension, he recalled, highlighting that the government has also launched the biggest ever home refurbishment and housing programme. Mr Orbán additionally announced that from 1 January 2022, at the latest, those under the age of 25 years will be granted full income tax exemption. This will cost the budget around HUF 130 to 150 billion, but he believes it is important that, after pensioners, young people, too, should be given a serious chance. He added that it will be worth granting full tax exemption to young people up to the amount of the average earnings. “If we manage this, our entire crisis management system will be complete,” he stated.
In summary, the Prime Minister said given that we managed to pull the country out of a crisis situation in 2010 once before, “why couldn’t we succeed in doing the same in the present crisis situation?” Behind the government’s decisions, there is a thorough understanding of the people, “we know what it is that Hungarian people like, and what it is they don’t,” he said, describing a thorough understanding of the country in general as key in crisis management. His assumption regarding the country’s success in 2021 is based on the fact that he knows that if people have job opportunities, they will work, and this requires tax reductions, he said, adding that by contrast, the Left’s tax-increasing policy throttles people’s energies.