BUDAPEST (Reuters) – A Hungarian teachers’ union has asked parents not to send their children to school and kindergarten to protect teachers and parents from the coronavirus pandemic, clashing with the government which has vowed to keep schools open.
Hungary now has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 hospitalisations per 100,000 people in Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Protection and Control.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government, anxious to minimise further harm to the recession-hit economy, has refrained from reimposing a strict nationwide lockdown, though it has introduced a night-time curfew and shut entertainment venues.
“Do not send your child to nursery or school,” the PDSZ teachers’ union said in a statement released on Sunday, adding it had received scores of letters from worried parents who see social distancing, testing and contact research as inadequate.
“Workers and parents need to prevent harm in education,” the PDSZ said. “Until the government commits in actions, not only words, to defend life and health, parents must act. ‘It is too early to switch to digital teaching’ is an inadequate answer.”
Not all families can arrange daytime care for children while maintaining jobs but those who can should do so, the PDSZ said.
“This is an extra burden for all but mass infections will be an even bigger burden for families,” the PDSZ said.
The government did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
As well as schools, all shops and restaurants in Hungary remain open. Soccer games will also continue to be played before thousands of spectators, even though daily new infections are in the thousands and deaths have topped 100 per day.
The health care system is rapidly choking up as COVID patients flood hospital capacity, forcing rescheduled hospital operations and sending medical professionals to hot spots.
(Reporting by Marton Dunai @mdunai; Editing by Gareth Jones)