Viktor Orban hits out at EU over coronavirus vaccine roll out
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Firebrand prime minister Viktor Orban said it was clear the bloc’s coronavirus strategy would leave its inoculation programme lagging behind Britain and the United States. In a scathing interview, the strongman leader insisted he saw early signs that the Brussels-led buy up of vaccines would flop and decided to go it alone. As a result, Hungary is racing ahead of the EU’s average vaccination rate having delivered 35 doses per 100 people.
In constant, the bloc has only managed to trundle along at a rate of 18 per 100 people.
Mr Orban said: “I’ll try to speak modestly, but I can’t play it down any more than to say that I was completely sure of it.
“So sometime around November it could already be seen that the vaccines ordered from the West wouldn’t arrive on time. The European Commission ordered the vaccines and it also signed the contracts, but it bungled something.
“And suddenly I, too, saw that Britain, the United States, Israel and Serbia were – and would be – ahead of Europe in vaccination.”
The Hungarian Prime Minister shunned the Brussels-led approach to order in vast quantities of jabs made by Russia and China to help boost its domestic rollout.
Most other member states opted to stick to vaccines authorities by the European Medicines Agency, but shortfalls in supply have significant hampered deliveries.
“We took that risk, but I’m still here,” Mr Orban added.
“I think that the Hungarian people support the notion that ideology should be set aside, that no distinction should be made between vaccines on the basis of whether they come from the West or the East, but the criterion should be whether a vaccine is safe and appropriate.”
Hungary would’ve only managed to vaccinate at half of the current rate if it had relied on the jabs made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, he said.
He added: “I think we made a good decision, and we’ve saved the lives of many thousands of people in Hungary; and we will save them because we have vaccines – not only from the West, but also from the East.”
Hungary will now begin easing its coronavirus restrictions within days, Budapest has announced.
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The country’s nighttime curfew will be set back two hours to 10pm and shops will be allowed to open until 9.30pm, as long as they comply with social distancing rules.
Hotels will remain closed, as will restaurants, except for takeaway and delivery services.
Schools are set to reopen in mid-April once teachers are immunised, the Hungarian government said.
The central European state recorded record coronavirus deaths last week as doctors warned the healthcare system risks becoming overwhelmed.
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Hungary has had the highest weekly per capita death rate in the world for a number of weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Sunday, there were nearly 12,000 Covid patients in hospital, with 1,451 of them on ventilators, according to government figures.
But its vaccination drive has reached the most citizens per capita in the EU, and has imported the EU’s largest number of doses per capita.
While Budapest is able to unlock most EU countries, including France and Germany, are tightening measures to prevent the spread of Covid.
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