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Hungary’s chief medical officer on Friday reminded the public to avoid close contact and stay home in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the operative board coordinating the epidemic response, Cecília Müller urged those over the age of 65 to stay home, noting that this age group is the most vulnerable to the virus, especially if they have underlying illnesses.

At the same time, she warned that young people with immune system disorders or chronic medical conditions were also at risk. Müller urged young people to avoid partying and those returning from abroad to self-isolate, adding that those who have the opportunity should work from home.

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Müller noted that of the 85 people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Hungary so far, three have died (the number increased to four after the news conference). All three of the patients who died were men, aged 69, 74 and 79, respectively and all three had suffered from chronic illnesses. So far, seven of the patients have recovered, two of whom are Hungarians and five Iranians, she said.

In response to a question, Müller said the operative board had no plans to introduce home confinement measures concerning the elderly population, but stressed that they should do their best to stay home and avoid gatherings.

She said the board had information on the geographic breakdown of coronavirus cases across the country, noting that it was crucial when it came to investigating the contacts of existing patients. Müller added, at the same time, that the virus had now reached every part of the country.

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“We’re at the stage when the virus is being transmitted in communities and on the verge of mass infections,” she said.

As regards face masks, Müller said those who are healthy do not need to wear them, adding that surgical masks are used regularly in health care. High-quality FFP3 masks, she said, were only needed for those treating confirmed coronavirus patients or performing procedures that involve the spread of respiratory droplets.

Tibor Lakatos, the head of the emergency centre set up by the operative board, told the same press conference that Hungary will receive a shipment of raw materials necessary for manufacturing face masks, adding that the prison service directorate had begun procuring the materials needed for making protective equipment.

Lakatos also said that Hungarian authorities have so far launched proceedings in 47 cases concerning violations of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Of those cases, 12 involved threats of public endangerment, 8 were related to fraud and 7 were violations of the emergency measures introduced to combat the epidemic, Lakatos told a press conference. The authorities have interviewed 22 suspects so far, he added.

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He said there had also been a significant number of home quarantine violations. So far, the authorities have placed 3,506 people in home quarantine and have registered 69 violations, Lakatos said. Several businesses have also violated the restrictions imposed on the trade sector. The board has filed 58 misdemeanor reports for quarantine violations, he added.

Concerning violations of the restrictions around shop opening hours, Lakatos said the authorities had issued warnings to three business owners, fined seven and filed reports against nine.

Currently, there are 42 people stuck at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport either to board connecting flights or enter the country, he said. Operator Budapest Airport has supplied them with beds, food, water and blankets, he said. The passengers have also been given laptops so that they could initiate the procedures they need to enter Hungary or continue their journey. If necessary, the authorities will also provide face masks for them, Lakatos said.

In response to a question, he said the authorities had freed up space at various facilities to house those placed in quarantine if the hospitals’ capacities are exhausted. These include police facilities and holiday resorts not currently in use, he added.

In response to another question, Lakatos said several public utility providers have decided not to check their clients’ utility meters and to lift restrictions on water usage for households with unpaid bills.

Featured photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI