BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary cannot lift restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until it can carry out a mass inoculation of the people, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.
Orban said the best approach was to authorise the use of several vaccines as competition would force manufacturers to speed up shipments.
“We don’t need explanations, we need vaccines,” Orban said, adding that he hoped Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is in Moscow for talks on Friday, can secure a deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Hungary’s drug regulator has given initial approval for the use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines against the coronavirus. Hungary would be the first European Union member to receive the Sputnik V shot, which the EU’s medicines regulator has yet to green-light, underlining Budapest’s rush to lift coronavirus lockdown measures in order to boost the economy.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also not approvedthe vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and OxfordUniversity in Britain but a decision is expected on Jan. 29.
Hungary is also in talks with China’s Sinopharm to buy its coronavirus vaccine.
Orban said it was too early to talk about lifting restrictions.
Since Nov. 11, all secondary schools have been closed in Hungary, as have hotels and restaurants except for takeaway meals, a 1900 GMT curfew has been in place, and gatherings have been banned.
He said once healthcare workers, elderly people, and those working in defence efforts against the pandemic have been inoculated, then a discussion can start about returning to normality.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Catherine Evans)