It didn’t take long after the election for the Fidesz government that has been irresponsibly managing the economy to start siphoning money from public services.
It is hard to explain otherwise than with a rush to save money the fact that the health government has stopped free PCR testing by paramedics, and that the highest-capacity laboratory will no longer test PCR samples. The question still remains as to who will carry out the most reliable testing and how, as the government has not yet provided a straight answer in this regard.
All this suggests that the government simply wants to save money on Hungarian people and, despite the unanimous opinion of experts, is content to use only rapid tests, which it has previously even described as unreliable, in its management of the epidemic. It is true though that Fidesz politicians have previously profited billions from the state procurement of the latter in quite a stomach churning manner, which kind of explains the preference.
We have lost 46,000 Hungarian lives in the coronavirus epidemic to date, and dozens of people continue to die every day as a result of the virus. Experts claim that the accuracy of PCR testing is essential to control the epidemic and to identify infections with certainty. It is irresponsible and insensitive for the state to stop providing this free of charge even in cases with clear symptoms and justified by GPs. It is an excessive burden for families with low incomes to have PCR tests, which often cost nearly twenty thousand forints, and therefore, especially from a government that claims to be family-friendly, it would be more than justified to provide them free of charge.
On several occasions, I have highlighted the EU funds and programmes that provide assistance and support for epidemic management, but the Hungarian government has mostly responded with its usual arrogance. Most recently, they refused a HUF 900 million non-refundable EU subsidy that could have been used to provide Hungarian people with free or reduced-cost covid tests for travel restrictions, yet they did not take advantage of it. Likewise, due to the government’s practices of secrecy, it is unclear how the half a million rapid tests sent to Hungary under another EU programme were used, and my requests for information on this have been systematically denied by the government.
When the coffers are empty, it is time to be honest with the electorate and admit it, instead of sneakily skimping on them. Health and disease control should not be subject to bargains. There are plenty of EU opportunities available to the government right now; it just needs to take them.
dr. István Ujhelyi
MEP, Member of the ENVI Committee
Budapest/Brussels – 20.04.2022.