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Conflicting takes on Hungary’s coronavirus balance sheet

November 16th, 2020

Left-wing and liberal commentators accuse the government of risking the lives of Hungarians by mishandling the coronavirus epidemic. Pro-government columnists, on the other hand, dismiss such criticism as fear-mongering demagoguery.

In a sarcastic article in Népszava, Péter Németh thinks the Prime Minister is sending out inconsistent and confusing messages on the coronavirus situation. The left-wing columnist recalls that Mr Orbán explained the need for the latest round of restrictions and the introduction of the state of danger by claiming that there was a 50 per cent chance that the health care system would collapse in the second wave of the epidemic. A day later, however, he said that after the new restrictions, there is a 99.9 per cent chance that the health care system will be able to cope with the challenges and give proper care to all patients. He finds these two statements contradictory.

Mandiner’s András Nagy Csomor, on the other hand, accuses the government’s critics of fear-mongering and slanted reporting. The Prime Minister, he points out, meant that the health care system could have collapsed without further restrictions, but after the measures he introduced, it will be able to cope with the challenge.

On 444, Illés Szurovecz thinks that the Hungarian authorities have lost control, and can no longer contain the spread of the virus. The liberal commentator recalls that at the beginning of the second wave Prime Minister Orbán said that the government should focus on the number of coronavirus deaths rather than the infection rate. With the death toll increasing, the government now prefers to focus on the infection rate, when comparing the Hungarian situation to that in other countries, Szurovecz notes. He adds that the Hungarian government likes to claim that it is following the Austrian example in coronavirus health management – but as he sees it, in reality, Hungarian measures are lagging well behind Austrian measures.

Magyar Nemzet’s László Néző finds it outrageous that the welfare committee of Parliament is headed by MSZP MP Lajos Korózs, who in June was involved in the production of a video that claimed that most patients who were sent home died, after the government decision to empty hospitals to make space for those infected with coronavirus (see BudaPost June 11). Néző acknowledges that the opposition parties last week approved the introduction of the state of emergency, but thinks nonetheless that the opposition wants to spread fake news rather than helping the government to contain Covid-19.

On Mandiner, Dániel Kacsoh accuses the opposition of irresponsible political stunts, when it claims that the government is allowing the Hungarian health care system to collapse and thousands of Hungarians to die. Such ‘fear-mongering’ as well as the opposition’s call for even more subsidies to help Hungarians to cope with the economic implications of the crisis is nothing less than pure demagoguery, Kacsoh suggests.

On 24.hu, Zsuzsa Sándor agrees with the opposition, and accuses the government of irresponsible conduct that puts the lives of Hungarians at risk. The left-wing lawyer and former judge deems the government’s latest restrictions belated and unprofessional. She also thinks that if the government wanted to save Hungarian lives, it could have done so without introducing the state of danger. In Sándor’s view, the state of danger is being used by the government to rewrite the constitution again (see BudaPost November 13) and govern by decree, under the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic.  Sándor goes so far as to accuse the government of “experimenting with people to find out how fast coronavirus kills us”. She describes Hungarians accepting the government’s policies as “marching to their deaths without uttering a word”. Sándor concludes by wondering how many Hungarians “who get the coronavirus or whose relatives die of it as a result of the government’s irresponsible measures” will take their cases to court.

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