Emergency decrees extended to fall as 5 millionth innoculation approaches
Hungary’s parliament voted to expand defense measures against the pandemic, ensuring that government decrees issued under the state of emergency, which were otherwise due to expire on May 23, remain in effect. The state of emergency will automatically end 15 days after the start of the fall parliamentary session, although the government may decide to end it before that.
Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, had previously said restrictions for citizens who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus could remain in place until August. Gulyás later said he expected the number of people vaccinated against the coronavirus in Hungary to reach five million by May 28, which would trigger further easing of restrictions on the pandemic. As of May 19, the figure was 4,790,996.
The planned timeline matches data from virologist Miklós Rusvai, who said epidemiological indicators have improved. He told television news channel M1 that the amount of hereditary virus material in sewage had declined, indicating that the third wave of the pandemic could subside by the end of May.
To reach the five million threshold, the government allocated “at least” 16 billion forints to an information campaign to promote vaccination against the coronavirus, the official MTI news agency reported. The government has recognized that information campaigns could “contribute significantly to the success of the immunization program”.
As of May 14, the ratio of Hungarians who have firm plans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have already received their first vaccine stands at 64%, according to a weekly survey by the Central Statistical Office (KSH). Among them, more than 50% of 16-18 year olds have registered for a coronavirus vaccine, said Ágnes Galgóczi, head of the epidemiology department at the National Public Health Center, on May 16.
Companies also play a role in vaccinating their employees, according to novekedes.hu (Growth). The Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) and the Hungarian Banking Association have urged their officials to give employees a paid day off on or after receiving a COVID vaccine. In addition, Audi, MOL, Suzuki and Wizz Air organized on-site shots for workers enrolled in the vaccination system.
Currently, COVID vaccines from China and Russia account for 52% of the total of 10,133,015 doses received by Hungary, according to koronavirus.gov.hu, the government’s official website on the pandemic. Among these, the last shipment of Russian vaccines against Sputnik V arrived in Hungary on May 11, according to Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó.
Over the past two weeks, Hungary has also received a series of shipments of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, with 1.2 million doses in each case. 330,000 additional doses of the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in Hungary on May 18.
Meanwhile, Hungary is also making progress in its own vaccine development venture. On May 17, Secretary of State László György told a daily press briefing on the pandemic that Hungary would lay the cornerstone of a national vaccine factory in Debrecen within 100 days. The factory will ensure self-sufficiency for vaccine production for Hungarians and the Carpathian Basin from the end of 2022, György said.
Progress on immunity certificates is also underway. On May 14, Hungary launched a mobile app that serves as a COVID immunity certificate for those who have received their first shot. The Hungarian government has also concluded other agreements with several countries for the mutual acceptance of these certificates of immunity. These now include Bahrain, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.
This article first appeared in the print issue of the Budapest Business Journal on May 21, 2021.