This year’s budget as well as the 2021 budget already in the phase of planning will have to be revised in their entirety due to the coronavirus epidemic, and the budgets of local governments and institutions will have to be reviewed as well, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated on Kossuth Radio’s Friday morning programme.

He said it is important that the elderly should avoid contact with others. Sixty to eighty per cent of people become infected without even noticing that they had contracted the virus. However, in the case of the elderly and those in a poor state of health, the situation could be more serious. Therefore, we must protect our parents and grandparents, Mr Orbán said.

He stressed that we would have to face immeasurably grave economic consequences. The government will develop economy protection action plans which will provide assistance and solutions for specific sectors as the economy’s coming to a halt does not affect different sectors to the same degree. In order to restart the economy, it is necessary to prepare an economy protection action plan with a completely new approach and a budget that best serves it, he said.

He also pointed out that the Hungarian legal order is capable of vesting the government with means to take prompt and effective containment measures, and the government will not hesitate to use them.

The Prime Minister highlighted that there is no point in hoping or deluding ourselves that we would get over the coronavirus epidemic within a week or two; it will last several long months. Therefore, we will have to expect a change in our lives; life will not be the same as measures must be implemented in order to curb the epidemic, he added.

Mr Orbán stressed that at this point in time in Hungary there are only isolated, individual cases, and they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent group incidence. “I would not necessarily bet on us succeeding in preventing this,” but today we are on the other side of the defence line which separates isolated illnesses from group incidence, he said.

He pointed out that in Hungary the special legal order has a different meaning than in most European countries. It is a special situation regulated in the Constitution when the normal, general constitutional principles and rules are suspended, and it is possible to implement measures warranted by the gravity of the emergency. As a result, the government is able to take prompt and immediate measures. This can go so far as to place plants and factories under state control; it is a phase somewhere between democracy in peace time and a state of war. “Accordingly, we must treat it with caution,” the Prime Minister said.

He said given that from what he had seen so far the spread of the epidemic could not be stopped in the majority of European countries, he suggested to the government that they resort to this decision. There are emergency brakes built in, they can introduce this state for two weeks, and if it needs to be maintained for longer – which will be necessary – it will have to be approved by Parliament.

Mr Orbán observed that a legal order which bypasses constitutional rules and allows prompt and effective defence can be maintained over an extended period.

He said this is a global pandemic, the WHO raised the health emergency to the highest level, and while for some time we were hoping that it might avoid Europe, today it has spread all over the continent. It is not true that the epidemic came to an end in China; they are only past the peak of the epidemic, he added.

He highlighted that there is little knowledge available about the virus, there is no vaccine, and this fills everyone with worry and concern. We can only rely on scientific claims and experience: in China it took the epidemic 5 to 6 months to reach its peak, and therefore we cannot talk about a week or two, or a month or two. In Europe, too, the number of infections will increase for several months, he said.

The Prime Minister underlined that we needed several sources of strength all at once, and emotional fortitude is the most important. We cannot avoid the epidemic, in Hungary, too, there are patients, and their condition could take a turn for the worse. If there is no medicine, we can only prevent the spread of the epidemic. We must seal the borders, people from certain countries are not allowed to enter Hungary, and Hungarians returning home must be subjected to quarantine. We must enforce these measures, he listed.

Mr Orbán thanked nurses, physicians and disease control specialists for their work. They are able to mobilise a sufficient number of health care experts, and the available resources will be sufficient; despite this, he has ordered the procurement of additional equipment and implements, he said.

He highlighted that money is also available, there is no financial obstacle to the containment efforts, “it’s about human lives, that takes priority over everything else”.

He pointed out that we also need discipline. In this department we are doing better than many expected; the people are following the containment instructions of the Operational Group in a disciplined manner. So far, the country has passed the test with flying colours, we have had to undergo many a crisis together, and in crisis situations the people in Hungary stand together. They always excel themselves when in trouble, and we have the necessary cooperation skills to contain the epidemic within limits, he said in evaluation.

The Prime Minister said they are in contact with countries in the vicinity; exchanging experiences is of paramount importance, in particular with neighbouring countries.

Regarding the closing of universities, by Mr Orbán’s account, this was necessary because there are tens of thousands of foreign students in Hungary, and the epidemic was brought into Hungary primarily by foreigners; it is spreading most among them. However, foreign students cannot be separated from Hungarians, and so this seemed to be the reasonable thing to do, he added.

He said they have not closed public education institutions because the virus does not seem to infect children or passes through them without symptoms of the disease. The elderly are more at risk. If there is any sign indicating a change, they will adopt a new decision.

He also said if they close schools, that means the end of the school year, and teachers would have to go on unpaid leave.

Mr Orbán highlighted that human life is the number one priority, the goal is to minimise the number of victims and patients, but they are already “preparing plans for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”.

He said there are two front lines, the front lines of migration and the coronavirus. Movement spreads the disease, and “migration is movement itself”. There is a logical connection between the two things, he added.

He stressed that the country had successfully defended itself against migration, and while there are new proposals for distribution from bureaucrats in Brussels, Hungary continues to remain opposed to it.

We are able to defend our position; we have not given in to Brussels’ flawed migration policy so far, we will not do so in the future either, he laid down.

The Prime Minister stated that only the Hungarian people have the right to say whom they let into their country, “this is a Hungarian affair, our fate, our country, and we will not allow anyone else to destroy our form of life as we have known it to date with bad ideas, advice or instructions”, to annul the results which we have achieved with great difficulty, helping the Hungarian economy back onto its feet.

Mr Orbán said he understands “idealist statements” which Western European leaders want to deliver to us sometimes in the form of good advice, sometimes “in a somewhat patronising, lecturing manner” but he pretends not to hear them because these leaders live in a different reality. It would be important for everyone to do their own jobs, and to let us continue to defend our own lives, Mr Orbán said.