“According to the data received so far, there are no patients infected with the coronavirus in Hungary; all of the instruments required to protect ourselves are available, and the Chief Medical Officer is drawing up an action plan”, Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said at a press conference in Budapest on Thursday. In reply to a question, Mr. Gulyás also said that, depending on the spread of the virus, to the best of his knowledge air passenger services between Hungary and China could be stopped in the upcoming days.

Mr. Gulyás said that at its session on Wednesday the Cabinet had listened to a briefing on the coronavirus by the National Chief Medical Officer, who he has entrusted with directing prevention efforts and who, together with the Ministry, is expected to immediately draw up an action plan. “The Hungarian healthcare system is ready to take on the fight against the disease”, he emphasised.

He also stated that emergency laboratory testing will immediately be ordered if any suspected cases of the virus arise in Hungary.

“The Chief Medical Officer has implemented the protocol that needs to be followed to protect against such a virus, and this is why the busload of Chinese tourists arriving from Prague was stopped at the border and the passengers’ temperatures taken”, he added.

He also said that the installation of further technical instruments may be expected at airports and other sensitive entry points to filter out people who arrive in the country with a high temperature.

Mr. Gulyás said that suspected patients need to wait in quarantine until the results of their tests, and may also be refused entry into the country.

The Minister reported on the fact that according to 30 January data published by the World health Organisation (WHO), a total of 7,711 people are confirmed to have been infected with the virus, and 170 have died, with China still most affected by the virus. “The situation in Europe is significantly better: four laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in France, another four in Germany, and one in Finland”, he stated.

He also confirmed that seven Hungarians have indicated that they would like to come home from China ahead of time. “The Hungarian citizens in the area are healthy”, he said, adding that he will be consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with relation to what they can do to help them.

Mr. Gulyás told the press that the Hungarian Embassy in Beijing is in continuous contact with the Chinese foreign ministry and the foreign affairs offices of the affected region, adding that Hungary’s consular service is on duty 24 hours-a-day.

In reply to a question, he said that France has promised to bring home the seven Hungarian citizens who would like to return from China, adding that the French have a good chance of getting into China, and accordingly everyone would like to reserve a place on their aeroplane. “Meaning that if this opportunity does not succeed then Hungary will bring home the seven Hungarians on its own; the Hungarian Defence Force has the necessary capacity, and if necessary, they can be brought out using a military plane”, he explained.

The Minister warned against scaremongering, explaining that this is equivalent to threatening the public and is punishable. “In recent days pieces of fake news and scaremongering articles have been published that do not correspond to reality”, he detailed.

He said the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been tasked with assessing the effects of the epidemic on economic relations and tourism.

The number of soldiers guarding the southern border has been doubled

“Based on the Cabinet’s decision, the number of soldiers guarding the southern border has been doubled”, Mr. Gulyás told the press.

The Minister emphasised that migration pressure on the southern stretch of the border is significantly higher than previously, and in the small hours of Tuesday morning a breakthrough attempt occurred at Röszke, with 80 people attacking the border, five of whom succeeded in breaking though, but were apprehended and are facing criminal proceedings, and if they are proven guilty their expulsion is the correct course of action.

“The government has ordered the reinforcement of the protection of the southern border in view of the fact that the situation is significantly worse than the ‘relative calm’ of the past two years, and migration pressure on the southern border is expected to continue to be significant in the upcoming period”, Mr. Gulyás said, adding that the Hungarian intelligence services are evaluating all data.

He also spoke about the fact that 100 thousand migrants have accumulated along the Balkan migration route. However, he said that major problems could occur if the 3-4 million migrants currently in Turkey were to set out towards Europe. “This is why good relations with Turkey are important”, he emphasised.

The abuse of the law in claims for compensation relating to prison conditions has reached industrial proportions.

With relation to the issue of Hungarian prison conditions, Mr. Gulyás spoke about the fact that the abuse of the law with relation to claims for compensation that cite prison conditions have reached “industrial proportions”.

“Criminals have so far launched 12 thousand such claims and have succeeded in suing the Hungarian state for over 10 billion forints (EUR 29.6 million)”, he said.

“According to the government, this is the abuse of European and Hungarian law”, the politician stated, stressing that the “business-like” moneymaking opportunities available to criminals must be eliminated, and if they do acquire money through any means then it must be made possible for that money to be paid out to victims.

He also informed the press that the government has given Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér a mandate to open temporary places of incarceration if necessary. “Furthermore, the construction of several prisons is already in process; an additional 1500 or so places are required”, Mr. Gulyás added, detailing that one prison and one prison hospital are currently under construction, and three new prisons with space for 500 prisoners each are planned. “If these are all built, prison crowding would become a thing of the past”, he stated.

The compensation regulations are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice, and the National Assembly will be voting on the issue after its upcoming session begins in mid-February.

The court ruling does not help Roma citizens who have suffered segregation

Mr. Gulyás commented on the court ruling in the case of the Gyöngyöspata school affair, which determined segregation beginning in 2003, stating that it does not help Roma citizens who have suffered segregation in any form at all, and will not help them make up the gap.

According to the Minister, an education could help those involved, this is what offers an opportunity for them to catch up, and the government is ready to provide education assistance to people who have suffered damages at a value equal to or exceeding the compensation amount determined in the legally binding ruling. Colleagues from the Ministry of Human Capacities are holding talks on the issue in Gyöngyöspata, he said.

“If there is no agreement, the Cabinet expects the Curia to serve justice”, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

He added that although the situation is much better within the field of unemployment that it was at any point prior to 2010, there is still major poverty in certain regions, but in themselves compensation claims such as that launched in Gyöngyöspata are instead leading to loan sharks appearing in certain areas.

In reply to a question, the Minister also said that in certain counties there is “natural segregation” in schools, since school forms made up solely of Roma children develop as a result of non-Roma children being taken out of them. The establishment of school centres could be a solution to this, meaning if upper school were taken out of small settlements; this, however, has a degree of “political sensitivity”, he said.

The Minister also reported on the fact that all Hungarian soldiers serving in Iraq are safe and sound, and are not in any immediate danger.

He also spoke about the fact that Fidesz is also waiting to get to know the report by the ‘three wise men’ of the European People’ Party, which is not yet ready. He said that in his opinion a party can show no greater weakness that if it cannot decide what it should do. The Minister confirmed that this is an issue of choosing values, and whether the People’s Party still professes Christian democratic values. He said that in his opinion the exit of Fidesz would be the beginning of the end: the People’s Party would cease to be a Christian democratic party.

In reply to a question on whether, during his scheduled visit to Rome next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán might announce a new alliance with, for instance, leader of the Italian Liga party and Italy’s right-wing coalition Matteo Salvini, Mr. Gulyás said Fidesz is a member of the European People’s Party, and he doesn’t think the time for making alliances has yet arrived.

He declared, however, that if Fidesz were to leave the People’s Party then the CDU and CSU would continue to be its partners in Germany, and Fidesz would not join a European alliance that includes in its ranks the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party; this is a “red line”.

He also told reporters that Viktor Orbán will be meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin in February.

With relation to communist street names, the Minister said he will be putting a legislative amendment proposal before Parliament with relation to the fact that historians and scientists must be able to provide clear and obvious replies concerning the people in question during the course of public space renaming proceedings. He said it is intolerable for streets in Hungary to be named after communist murderers.

Also in reply to a question, he told the press that the Prosecutor’s office has ordered an investigation into the proliferation of fake news about him, in view of the fact that “quotes” have been spreading on social media claiming to originate from him, but which he never said.

In response to a question, Mr. Gulyás underlined that the government does not support the introduction of a congestion charge, but if the Municipality of Budapest wishes to introduce one, then it should propose a legislative amendment. He indicated that the Budapest Public Development Council will be holding a session in mid-February.

The Minister was also asked with relation to the statements by 7th District Mayor Péter Niedermüller (DK). Mr. Gulyás called the mayor’s word’s extremist and obviously racist, explaining that Europe left extremist ideals behind long ago, and it would be good for all extremist parties and for the Democratic Coalition to also leave them by the wayside. He added that he will attend Thursday’s demonstration if at all possible, and that if he is not present, the only possible reason will be a lack of time.

Mr. Gulyás was also asked with relation to the fact that Győr’s new Fidesz-KDNP Mayor Csaba András Dézsi, who was elected over the weekend, received a promise that he will be able to continue his work as a cardiologist, and whether there are plans to amend the related regulations, which prohibits this. The Minister said he recommends that Parliament debates whether it is worth making an exception to enable mayors to continue working as medical practitioners as an earning or non-earning activity.

In response to a question, Mr. Gulyás promised that the restructured National Curriculum will be made public on Friday. In reply to another question, he also said that as far as he is aware the new system for beginning school at the age of six is working properly, and people who have asked to be exempted have been allowed to do so in most cases. He explained that the government wanted to do away with the “hypocritical” practice according to which officially the nursery school decided on when a child was ready for school, but in practice it was the parents’ decision. “Experiences can be assessed: if those are favourable, it is worth keeping the current system, but if they are unfavourable then we can also move in the opposite direction and entrust the decision exclusively to parents”, he added.

The Minister was also asked with relation to the fact that at the beginning of the year the Prime Minister spoke about the need to refurbish the waiting rooms of healthcare institutions. Mr. Gulyás told reporters that the Ministry of Human Capacities has prepared the detailed survey, and the refurbishment would cost some 140 billion forints (EUR 414 million), and would involve state and local government institutions.

He also reported on the fact that the Ministry of Finance is in individual negotiations with major suppliers concerning hospital debts, the goal being for the state to pay justified levels of debt.

Mr. Gulyás told the press that a decision on the next steps of the Economy Protection Action Plan is expected to be made by the Cabinet in February, but a decision on the Family Protection Action Plan is only expected later, because the Plan will burden next year’s national budget, and accordingly it first needs to become clear how this year’s figures will develop.