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Coronavirus in May: Hungary From Europe’s Worst to Less Affected

Péter Cseresnyés 2021.06.03.

Epidemiological figures have continued to improve in May. Hungary has gone from being one of the most severely infected countries in Europe to one of the less affected in a matter of weeks despite the lifting of most restrictions. Although the vaccination rate in Hungary is one of the best on the continent, the sharp decline in vaccination willingness and the new Indian virus variant could still pose a threat.

Fortunately, in the past month, Hungary’s epidemiological trends showed a significant improvement with a sharp decline in all key figures including the number of patients treated in hospital, on ventilators, and in terms of mortality rate.

While the number of active infections has been decreasing since mid-April, in May it was a particularly significant decline, falling to a third of the figure at the beginning of the month, a level we haven’t seen since last November.

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There has also been a huge improvement in the number of new infections registered in Hungary. From nearly 2,000 infections per day at the beginning of the month, the number has now fallen to a tenth of that figure, with the rate of positive tests dropping well below WHO’s recommended maximum of 5%.

In a matter of weeks, Hungary has gone from one of the most infected countries to the middle within the European zone.

In May, the country’s hospital numbers also dropped to last autumn’s much more moderate level. The number of hospitalized patients fell to a fifth (from 5,191 to 981) while the number of patients on ventilators decreased from 621 at the beginning of the month, to 110 by the end.

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Finally, the Covid death toll also started to decline significantly. On the first of May, 161 people lost their lives to the virus, but following a steady decline, on the last day of the month “only” five people died – a figure last seen in September of last year when the second wave, which was much milder than the third, started to gain momentum.

Although during the third Covid wave Hungary became the country in the world with the highest number of total deaths relative to its population, the latest mortality figures are rather favorable even from a global and European perspective. Based on the statistics of the last few weeks, there are now several countries in the EU with worse mortality rates than Hungary.

Unfortunately, for the complete epidemic period so far, Hungary is still by far the worst performer and will almost certainly remain so- at least on a European level, as the rapidly improving trend is observed not just here but across the continent as well.

In the past months, Hungary has also become the EU member state that has inoculated the most citizens per capita, as more than half of its population have already received at least their first vaccine shot. As a result of the progressing vaccination campaign, the government started lifting many of the strict restrictions and began the gradual reopening of the country at the end of April.

The latest easing happened on May 1st when most of Hungary’s final Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and services were able to reopen for those with government-issued immunity cards.

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Despite initial fears believing this could reignite the spread of the virus and bring about a fourth coronavirus wave, the positive epidemiological trends did not turn around or even slow down.

At the moment, there seem to be two factors that could negatively impact the steady decline of the virus in Hungary.  One of these is the new Indian coronavirus variant, which has recently appeared in Hungary. The other is the vaccination rate which seems to have come to a drastic halt at the five million mark, indicating that herd immunity via vaccination will remain a dream to Hungary.

 Featured photo by Tibor Rosta/MTI