From Saturday, the wearing of a mask in enclosed spaces will be compulsory, Gergely Gulyas, the prime minister's chief of staff, told a regular government news briefing on Thursday. Gulyas also said Plans are also afoot for the same in state administration, he added.
Mask-wearing will be compulsory in shops, malls, museums, theatres, cinemas and in areas open to the public in government offices. Using masks on public transport will continue to be compulsory, he said.
Events with more than 500 people attending can still be attended with an immunity certificate, he said.
Also, mask-wearing will be mandatory wherever more than five people are regularly present in a shop. In schools, it will be up to head teachers to decide whether it is compulsory to wear a mask, he added.
Offices and sports facilities will be continue to be mask-free.
Gulyas said modelling indicated that the fourth wave would peak in late November or early December, though, he added, making such predictions was risky.
Expert were agreed, he said, that vaccination was the only truly effective protection against Covid
, especially the delta variant, and he cited the examples of Israel and the United States where booster shots had proved effective. The government, he added, recommended a booster jab for everyone from the fourth month on.
People who refused to be vaccinated put the health and lives of others at risk, he said, adding that the government had been forced to make mask-wearing compulsory for this reason.
From Nov. 22 to 28, the government is rolling out a vaccination campaign with an increased number of designated vaccination points in hospitals, with no requirement for registration.
Meanwhile, Gulyas said that while the incumbent Fidesz government holds power, capped utility bills would be here to stay. Gulyas said it was welcome that the price of fuel at the pump had been capped throughout Hungary thanks to government intervention, and that all fuel stations had complied. The tax authority will be checking fuel quality from Wednesday, he added.
Small businesses will be given the opportunity to join a universal energy provider so as to benefit from lower bills, he said.
Lower overheads and fuel prices will help to keep inflation in check, Gulyas added.
Commenting on the reports concerning alleged plans to sell Budapest’s City Hall, he insisted that the administration of Gergely Karacsony was in a state of “chaos” and, given the mayor had publicly rebuked a subordinate, the question of his credibility was hanging in the balance. Also, there was the question of whether he had been in possession of the relevant information, he added.
Whereas Karacsony had promised to create a park in the courtyard of City Hall and renovate the building, it transpired that the courtyard would continue to serve as a car park, while the building was in a worse condition than ever, Gulyas said.
Commenting on statements made by Peter Marki-Zay, the opposition alliance’s prime ministerial candidate, who has cast doubt on the government’s scheme to regulate utility bills, Gulyas, referring to the former Socialist prime minister, said “Ferenc Gyurcsany’s candidate” had admitted to continue with policies pursued between 2002 and 2010 when the price of electricity doubled and the price of gas tripled. The average Hungarian household would pay 400,000 forints more each year if market prices were passed on to them.
Asked in more detail about vaccination, he said the government would work towards making sure that state administration staff who are in contact with the public will have had three vaccinations.
Concerning teachers, no decision has been made regarding booster shots. The vaccination rate among teachers is around 87 percent, he added.
Gulyas said it was worth holding events that are accessible using an immunity card, adding that this would also send a message that inoculation is truly protective.
Asked about whether online education could make a comeback, he said: “If schools stop, everything stops”. Conditions are in place for classrooms to remain open, he said. Pending the decision of the European authorities, approval for vaccination of children under the age of 12 years could arrive in December, he added.
Meanwhile, Hungary, he confirmed, is sending ten doctors to Slovenia to help amid the serious epidemic there.
Regarding the Stop Soros package of laws which the European Court of Justice ruled unlawful, Gulyas said the government was examining the ruling. He added the government considered the European Commission’s “stand in favour of migration taken within a single week of the court’s ruling” to be “a serious mistake”.
Gulyas said the EC should follow the instructions of European government leaders and draft a clear set of rules to advance the protection of the EU’s external borders.
Commenting on the situation on the Poland-Belarus border, Gulyas noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel
was handling the diplomacy, and “Hungary knows what its weight is,” though if a request was received, he added, Hungary would not hesitate to step up. Every possible support for protecting the external borders should be provided, he said.
Asked about recent legislation on changing address rules for voters in the general election, Gulyas said the new rules did not offer any greater room for manoeuver that those up to now. Neither did they connect with the right to vote, he insisted. The government estimates that 1.5-2 million people live somewhere other than at their declared address, he added.
During the five-week parliamentary session, no objections to the amendment were made, he said. A debate emerged only later, when an organisation linked to George Soros complained about the new law, Gulyas added.
Responding to a question on the economy, Gulyas said the government considered it important that certain sectors of the economy should be in Hungarian hands to a sufficient degree, and more must be done to achieve this in the food industry and retail.
Regarding the possible redrafting of next year’s budget, he said the government awaited the central bank’s 2022 inflation forecast to be published in December.
He said the government concurred with the consensus that inflation would not fall back to around three percent before the second half of next year.