In this second stage, containment measures started to be taken nationwide without pretending to enforce lockdown and social distancing. On 11 March Orbán issued the state of emergency, which enabled him to govern by decree for 15 days according to the Hungarian Fundamental Law. Nevertheless, Orbán refused to take severe restrictive measures before the dramatic weekend of 14-15 March. He rather shared the dismissive understatement on the pandemic offered by US President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro. The need to keep business open as usual and preserve the financial capability was shared at that time by many global leaders, from the British PM Boris Johnson to the German chancellor Angela Merkel. On 12 March, Orbán travelled to Moldova on an earlier planned official visit and shocked his hosts by ostensibly shaking hands. The following day he paid another visit to Belgrade to meet Serbian President Vucic. According to official statements, they discussed the pandemic and the migration issue. Some speculated that Orbán tried to contact foreign companies to speed up the purchase of key equipment. But still on 13 March, when most of Europe seemed to accept the idea of a lock down to prevent the global spread of the virus, Orbán spoke out against the closure of schools and public offices in Hungary. He threatened teachers of unpaid leave for the rest of the school year, and warned parents that pupils would miss this school year in the event of its suspension.
However, the very same day, wide opposition on this issue mounted on social networks and within the ruling party. In the evening of 13 March, Orbán announced the suspension of normal activity in all Hungarian schools from 16 March, and promised fellow citizens to protect their lives. The government also announced the temporary closure of its borders to foreign citizens, while allowing the repatriation of Hungarian nationals abroad.
Orbán was entering the next stage of the political management of a challenge that offered him, a politically tired and worn leader, the opportunity to start to play what he likes the most: the commander-in-chief committed to save the fatherland. His political strategy shifted from dismissive understatement to a more paternalistic, authoritarian and militaristic attitude towards the Covid-19 crisis. Orbán allocated key decisions to eleven "operative groups" in charge of a large range of public issues concerning the pandemic. One of the most impressive measures was to allow the military to seize and take control of more than one hundred "strategic companies", either Hungarian-run businesses or multinationals operating in Hungary.
Around 20 March, while the curve of the pandemic started its exponential progression in Hungary but before the health system had experienced major disruptions, Orbán and his pundits set up the premises of the fourth and final stage: the transformation of the emergency decrees into new legal norm by making the government unaccountable and potentially unchallengeable. Orbán started a complex maneuver to prolong the state of emergency and introduce a comprehensive Coronavirus Act, a parliamentary law that would enable the government to rule by decree without any predetermined deadline. According to the official explanation, there would be a legal void from 26 Marchif the decrees issued 15 days before were not converted into law.