* Partial reopening likely in second half of 2021
* Bank left key rates steady on Tuesday, as expected
* New statement signals readiness to act on CPI, if needed
* No systemic risk to banks after loan moratorium expires
BUDAPEST, March 24 (Reuters) - Hungary is unlikely to
quickly reopen its economy from current pandemic-induced
lockdowns, despite relatively high vaccination levels, central
bank rate setter Gyula Pleschinger said on Wednesday.
Hungary's hospitals are under "extraordinary" pressure from
rising coronavirus infections, the surgeon general has said, as
the country becomes a hotspot in the third wave of a pandemic
that has hit Central Europe especially hard.
"We are faring rather well in terms of inoculations compared
to Europe. However, not so well overall," Pleschinger said.
The National Bank of Hungary (NBH) left interest rates
unchanged on Tuesday, as expected, and said it was ready to
prevent a sustained rise in inflation as the economy starts to
recover from the coronavirus shock.
The bank expects inflation to approach 5% in the second
quarter because of rising fuel prices and tax changes -
overshooting its 2% to 4% target range - but sees inflation then
returning to its target band.
Pleschinger said the bank purposely omitted a reference from
its Tuesday policy statement that it considered prevailing
interest rate conditions fully in line with its objectives and
there was no need to change them.
"Now we have omitted that and signalled that we are
following market developments very closely and will act if
sustained upside inflation risks materialise," he said.
Pleschinger added, however, that the bank would only act if
its preferred measure of lasting price trends, tax-adjusted core
inflation, moved out of its target band for a sustained period.
"As long as tax-adjusted core inflation remains inside the
tolerance band ... we will not act," he said.
Should any change in rates be necessary, the first move
would not affect the base rate but other tools, such as the
interest rate corridor or targeted instruments, Pleschinger
said, without elaborating.
Pleschinger declined to comment on current exchange rates,
but said the weakening of the forint over the past
years had been in line with the central bank's interest rate
policy and its goal to steer inflation towards its 3% target.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Alex Richardson and