Hungary to close schools, set up ten action groups - PM Orbán

After ordering universities to keep their doors closed, the Hungarian government has finally decided to close schools, as well. The measure, another one in string of restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán late on Friday. The PM added that ten action groups will also be set up in charge with various tasks, including education, public finances, communications and there will also be a research group trying to find a cure for the disease.
orban viktor koronavirus

In the morning he still insisted that there was no reason to suspend education in schools, as children do not get gravely ill when infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). They said a temporary closure will be justified if they diagnose the first infected student. Teacher organisations have been pleading for this closure ever since the PM declared a state of emergency as of Wednesday.

Action Groups

Orbán said he has set up ten action groups tasked with the following matters:

  1. Education
  2. The construction of a mobile epidemiological container hospital
  3. Safety of corporations of vital importance
  4. International co-ordination
  5. Communications
  6. Special legal order
  7. Public finances
  8. Restarting the economy
  9. Research group tasked with finding a cure for COVID-19
  10. Border control

How is Hungary doing in terms of coronavirus defense?

The PM stated that laboratory capacity is sufficient to take thousands of samples. When a lab test comes up as an option, the protocol of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is used to decide who will be tested and who will not, he added.

There are 22 million pairs of gloves at hand, along with 1.2 million masks and another 1 million are on their way, said Orbán, specifying that he was referring to surgical masks.

The Hungarian Chamber of Doctors (MOK) has warned on Wednesday that medical staff in Hungary generally lack the necessary protective gear. The surgical masks provided by the cabinet for GPs [if they picked them up from a warehouse in Budapest’s 13th district] prevent virus carriers from infecting others, but do not protect doctors from the extremely virulent virus.

Also note that half of GPs in Hungary are over 60 years of age, and evidence shows that COVID-19 is the most dangerous for older people.

Orbán also said there are 2,000 respirators and anaesthetic machines to in the country, which would be sufficient even if there are tens of thousands of cases, but the cabinet has also taken steps to acquire additional equipment.

Inbound routes from Israel are also a no-go

Orbán also said that after China, South Korea and Israel, Hungary will deny entry also for those non-residents that arrive from Israel, as some coming from there were also diagnosed with COVID-19. 

School's out as of Monday (16 March)

A new extra-scholar digital teaching schedule will begin on 16 March in all schools, Orbán announced. This means students will not be allowed in education facilities. Headmasters will still have to go to work as usual and teachers will have to continue teaching using digital tools, preferably from home if the technical conditions are given or from the school using school equipment.

We were planning to build Hungary's digital education infrastructure in any case, but truth be told, we have not finished this job and were planning to complete it by the next school year. We now have to launch this programme ahead of time. There may be hiccups in the system, but it is still better to continue teaching than to end the school year prematurely,

, Orbán said explaining today's decision of the education action team. This translates into closing down schools in practice. Teachers will be able to teach and high school seniors will be able to prepare for their final exams, so there is a good chance the exams will be held as usual, Orbán said. Only teaching methods not requiring personal tutoring will be available digitally. This will require new methodology, so the state secretary for education will publish recommendations on methodology that the government will forward to all schools next week. This will help teachers and students alike know what to do, Orbán said.

Take care of the elderly!

If necessary, there are locations where the government can offer child supervision in small groups, but it would be better if children stayed home, Orbán said, adding a request not to entrust children to the care of grandparents. "The coronavirus epidemic does not endanger young people or people my age. If we catch it, we are looking at the tribulations of an average flu infection. We can cope. In contrast, our parents and grandparents, the elderly of us, will be in serious trouble as this virus represents a lethal infection. We have to take care of our children now, but also of our parents and grandparents," Orbán said, repeating his plea to find other solutions and not to leave children with grandparents.

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