Orbán: Economic relief package expanded as mass coronavirus infections are expected
Before the daily press conference of the government's coronavirus task force, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a special announcement, listing the stocks and manpower Hungary has to counter the coronavirus pandemic and introducing the expansion of the economic relief package implemented on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister recounted that a state of emergency was declared twelve days ago, but researchers still need months to find a cure. Orbán said that this authorisation was needed because the usual legal framework no longer allows the government to organise "Hungary's self-defence."
"The virus has entered into community spread and we are speeding towards mass infections," Orbán said, adding there are 167 identified cases, this number covers the patients that officially tested positive in accredited laboratories, but Orbán said it would be useful to know how many people are actually carrying the virus - the PM asked experts to estimate the actual number, but the numbers are still too uncertain to be released, still, the PM said that one thing is for sure:
THERE ARE CONSIDERABLY MORE PEOPLE INFECTED THAN 167.
Of these 167, 27 people are exhibiting severe symptoms, 9 people are receiving intensive care, and there are seven people who died. The average age of casualties is 69, Orbán revealed.
The Prime Minister explained that there are four main aspects to the Hungarian coronavirus response, these are the military, police, healthcare, and economic aspects.
Orbán said that Hungary currently has 1.5 million surgical masks and 25,000 are being manufactured each day (which is about to expand to 80,000/day), there are 20 million pairs of gloves, 2560 ventilators, the government purchased about a million special protective masks, there are 66,905 hospital beds in all, and 252 temporary beds are available. As for healthcare workers, there are 19,431 doctors under 65, 4312 residents, and there are 690 medical students in their final year, and there are 105,000 other medical workers. Orbán said they can all be deployed against the coronavirus pandemic.
Orbán noted that there are shortages of medical equipment in the West and help can only be expected now from the East.
Special protective masks will be provided to all doctors and nurses in intensive care, all other medical staff and suspected patients will receive surgical masks.
The PM reminded that police have closed the borders of Hungary to all passenger traffic with certain exceptions, and a humanitarian corridor is open for transit passengers in set times. Orbán explained that people waiting to cross the Austrian border in order to travel through Hungary will be allowed to enter at the rate Romanian authorities allow people to leave Hungary through the Romanian border.
With regards to the domestic situation, Orbán said that the police's ability to uphold public order must be increased. He listed that in Hungary, there are 70,275 police officers and deputy officers, 46,573 civil guards and other public order officials. Orbán added that in the current situation, the military is also available for assisting law enforcement forces and vital businesses.
Currently, in Hungary, there are 23,950 professional soldiers, 9380 soldiers in reserve, and there are 10,649 people who were discharged from the military in the past five years. All in all, this means that there are 139,684 people who can participate in upholding public order in the country.
New economic relief measures
Following in the footsteps of the economic relief package announced on Wednesday, Viktor Orbán said that the government will be introducing six new measures to alleviate the pandemic's effects on the economy.
- On top of taxi drivers, 81 thousand more private entrepreneurs and small businesses will be exempted from paying the "KATA" flat tax and social security contributions after their employees. The measure will affect performing arts, beauty services, repair services (gas, water, glass, etc), sporting services, and other sectors, but the exact list will be released later in the government decree,
- The government also grants exemptions for all "KATA" flat tax debts occurring after 20 March,
- Hungarian media providers will get tax reliefs to balance missing ad revenues,
- All evictions and foreclosures will be suspended until the end of the state of emergency, just like the enforcement of tax debts,
- Child care allowances and child care benefits expiring during the state of emergency will be prolonged until the special legal order terminates.
The government will publish the decree on Monday evening.
The PM said that protecting jobs is the most important goal right now, adding that this is going to be a difficult period that requires efforts from all, but these efforts save lives - "the more we work together, the more lives we can save," everyone has their responsibilities, the country has to pull together instead of infighting, Orbán concluded.
Cover: Orban Viktor / Facebook
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