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Every life matters

The Prime Minister said they had adopted the restrictive measures which had become necessary due to the coronavirus epidemic in good time and with sufficient accuracy, and as a result, there was a chance above 99 per cent that the health care system would remain operational and every Hungarian would receive the care they needed.

Regarding the latest restrictions, he said “decisions such as these must be adopted at a time when the threat of health care becoming paralysed is a genuinely realistic threat”. In this regard, he observed that, according to mathematicians’ estimates, without the curfew and other restrictions, given the present number of physicians and nurses, hospitals would have come dangerously near to the limit – “or maybe the ceiling might even have fallen in” – where care could be described as just about professional enough on the basis of the number of patients falling on one physician and one nurse. The Prime Minister said at present there are 6,690 coronavirus patients in hospital, including 518 requiring assisted ventilation.

They have mobilised four hundred students of the Technical University, providing accommodation and meals for them, to transport medical students as “taxi drivers” to take samples from patients, he said. He also mentioned that doctors had accepted secondment which should only be resorted to in emergency situations or in a state of war; there is no need for it in peacetime. Regarding the situation in education, Mr Orbán said 500 secondary schools had changed over to digital education. Additionally, due to high levels of infections, 208 nursery schools have been closed down, and digital education has been introduced in 239 elementary schools.

In the context of the vaccine against the coronavirus, he mentioned that health care workers would be vaccinated first because they were in danger, and they were needed most. He highlighted that it would be good to have access to as many different vaccines as possible, and this mustn’t be turned into a political issue. Vaccination will not be compulsory, and those who choose to have themselves vaccinated will be able to decide which vaccine they trust; whether they prefer the business-centred approach of a US corporation, the state-developed Russian vaccine or “the even more state-developed” Chinese, he said.

“The vaccine is already on the horizon now, we must hold on for a few more weeks,” even if at the beginning supplies will only be limited, he said, asking people to hold until the vaccine arrives. The bridging business grants now made available for 30 days seek to provide assistance for business actors in the sectors which are severely affected by the latest restrictions, including hotels and restaurants, he said. Mr Orbán also announced that, in response to a proposal made by President of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry László Parragh, they have decided to reduce the VAT on takeaway dishes.

He further indicated that a task force is working on an economic growth action plan. They will seek to identify decisions with long-term effects, designed to remain in force over an extended period, with which they can again give the economy a boost, including tax reductions primarily. The government is not giving up its philosophy of a workfare economy even in the present situation, and businesses must therefore be enabled to retain work force and to implement developments in order to hire more people, he stated.

Regarding the proposals relating to the suspension of the local trade tax and corporation tax, he said “it’s a steep path, but it is possible to climb up it, except we must find the right proportions”. However, the reduction of taxes is indispensable, or else there will be no jobs. He is therefore committed to tax reductions at a perceivable rate for the future; if necessary, the central budget and the budgets of local governments, too, will have to play a part in this, he said.

Commenting on the plan to tie rule of law criteria to the disbursement of EU grants, the Prime Minister said on Thursday he consulted with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at length, and he told her that the Hungarian people’s money cannot be taken away, “there will be money, the economy will work, developments will start”. At the same time, Mr Orbán pointed out that the new draft legislation worked out under German leadership is, in fact, not about the law, but about politics. He also told the German Chancellor, he continued, that if they adopt this legislation, then “we will have turned the European Union into a Soviet Union”.

It was customary in the Soviet Union to set a condition without objective criteria, they would then set up a committee to take everyone to task over the fulfilment of that condition on an ideological basis, and if anyone “diverged from that” they were warned, anyone who failed to toe the line was punished, and there was no appeal, he explained. The current draft EU legislation is “exactly the same,” they want to blackmail countries on ideological grounds without objective criteria and without the possibility of an appeal, he stated, stressing that “we didn’t establish the EU in order to create a second Soviet Union”. He said a long time ago, in the communist era all of this was referred to as “anti-Soviet activity,” while today they want to punish Member States with reference to “anti-European activity”. He highlighted that “it is what the Member States want that can happen in the EU, and anything they don’t want will not happen”.

We should now concentrate on the management of the epidemic and provide immediate assistance for the Southern states that are in trouble, he stressed. Regarding the fact that the European Commission has tabled its LGBTQ strategy, he said “I’m not saying that it is entirely unnecessary to have such task forces,” but as regards timing, decision-makers should have more sense, “these are not the studies that we should be reading right now”. Concerning the victory of the Hungarian football team against Iceland on Thursday, Mr Orbán said “we have every reason to be proud of our sons” because this was not just a simple football match, but a battle, and defeating Vikings in battle is a great achievement.