In the effort to contain the coronavirus epidemic, the government looks upon municipalities as partners, cooperation is essential, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated.
Gergely Gulyás said at the cabinet meeting they had consulted with Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony and Károly Szita, President of the Alliance of County-Ranked Cities about measures they regarded as necessary as part of the containment effort.
“Despite all rumours to the contrary, […] in the effort to contain the epidemic the government looks upon local governments as especially important partners,” the Minister said, adding that cooperation with local governments is essential for the containment effort to succeed.
Mr Gulyás recalled that the restrictions on movement – which the government decided to implement two weeks ago – would cease to have effect on Saturday. In light of this, they felt it was important to consult with the Mayor of Budapest and the President of the Alliance of County-Ranked Cities.
The present situation demands major sacrifices on everyone’s part, and they sincerely hope that the country will get through this difficult period as soon as possible. However, “we are still talking about months, rather than weeks,” he said.
Mr Gulyás highlighted that both the metropolitan municipality and the Alliance of County-Ranked Cities had adopted a constructive approach, and had made constructive recommendations at the meeting of the government.
He repeated that the government is ready to cooperate with mayors in the effort to contain the virus. Our goal remains to slow down the spread of the epidemic as much as possible, and to protect the elderly from the risk of infection, Mr Gulyás stated.
He highlighted that this is no time for political debates, and they would like a sense of unity that is essential for a successful containment effort to prevail in the coming months.
At the press conference, Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony said “I believe that today we’re living in times when we truly need national unity”.
The Mayor of Budapest welcomed the fact that a dialogue had been forged between the government and local governments. He stressed that the metropolitan municipality is doing everything it can to implement the joint decisions, and is asking people to stay at home “also with regard to the Easter break”.
The Mayor of Budapest highlighted that the capital and the districts of the capital have done their utmost to play a part in the containment effort, and to prepare for the management of the post-epidemic economic and social crisis.
The invitation to the cabinet meeting has created a possibility for forging cooperation regarding some technical issues, Mr Karácsony observed.
He said, in consultation with the political groups of the Metropolitan General Assembly and district mayors, at the cabinet meeting he recommended that the restrictive measures currently in effect should be upheld for approximately another month.
Naturally, the final decision lies with the government, and the capital will make every effort to implement that decision, he stressed.
The Mayor of Budapest pointed out that local governments could play a major role in managing the post-epidemic economic and social situation. Therefore, he asked the government to start consultations with the alliance of local governments within a foreseeable time, Mr Karácsony said, adding that in this the government adopted a positive approach.
He also said he asked the government to start testing the residents and staff members of elderly care homes at least in Budapest within the shortest possible time in order to curb the coronavirus epidemic in these institutions. In this regard, too, the government was open and ready to cooperate, Mr Karácsony added.
Károly Szita, President of the Alliance of County-Ranked Cities, too, asked the government to uphold the various restrictions in place. At the same time, he said, mayors take the view that, with regard to the advent of the Easter holidays, the tightening of the rules could also be considered.
In the present situation, they asked the government, he continued, to help local governments with enforcing the observance of restrictions. At the same time, to this end, he offered the authorities the assistance of municipal wardens.
He stressed that the restructuring of the budgets of municipalities was one of the most burning tasks.
In December, “peace-time budgets were adopted”, meaning that they were preparing to implement the programmes approved by electors, to increase investments, to raise wages and to hold joint events.
Today, however, funds must be reallocated to the containment effort and the restarting of the economy, the Mayor listed.
They need minimum a month to complete this work, and they will be able to engage in talks with the government regarding the funds available to municipalities after that, the Mayor said.
On behalf of the 23 county-ranked cities, Mr Szita thanked the Prime Minister and the government for the efforts they have made in the interest of curbing the epidemic.
After the press conference, in answer to a question of the public service media about why the metropolitan municipality failed to take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of infection in an elderly care home operated by the metropolitan municipality, Mr Karácsony said they had done everything they could in the interest of prevention.
(Prime Minister’s Office / MTI)