BUDAPEST, April 23 (Reuters) - Hungary’s government will decide next week on the future of lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus as the country prepares for a restart of the economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
Current lockdown rules will be in effect until May 3, and a new set of rules will be needed after that date to gradually allow the economy get back to normal, Gergely Gulyas said.
The new set of restrictions after May 3 will ensure that those who are the most endangered by the virus are protected while restarting economic activity, he added.
Gulyas said the government would consider international examples and “the aspects that increasingly support the inevitable need to restart the economy.”
He told a news conference that the restart of the economy can only be done “gradually and according to a strict schedule.”
Orban has said he planned to present a plan on May 3-4 for a gradual return to normal. He said Hungary would be prepared to handle any rise in infections by then.
The government is also planning to allow tens of thousands of secondary school students to take their written graduation examinations from May 4 onwards, which has triggered protests by teachers and parents who believe this is premature.
The crisis has presented Orban with the toughest challenge to his decade-long rule. His response - to rule by decree indefinitely, after receiving parliament’s authorisation, to tackle the outbreak - has drawn criticism from the European Union.
Hungary has responded to the criticism by saying parliament can revoke that authorisation at any time.
Hungary has 2,284 confirmed infections and more than 200 deaths. (Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Alison Williams and Raju Gopalakrishnan)