Hungary has seen a drastic surge in the spread of the novel coronavirus in October, some of the trends- including the number of deaths- are even among the worst across the continent. Despite the worrisome statistics, the government seems reluctant to reintroduce stricter restrictions, at least for now.
Hungary’s October COVID stats: worst one so far
Hungary’s number of registered coronavirus infections has tripled during the last month, (from 27,309 to 79,199), while there was a similarly drastic surge in the number of active cases from 20,410 to 57,302.
Unfortunately, the worst figures today in the country are not these, but the number of fatalities and hospitalized patients. At the beginning of October, 757 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospital- one month later their number increased to more than five times as many (4,205). On top of this, six times more patients are on ventilators than at the beginning of October (from 52 to 306). Meanwhile, 1,038 people have died just in the past month.
The trend is especially worrisome as Hungary has one of the worst statistics regarding the number of fatalities per population.
Although Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a recent interview that the epidemic situation was somewhat better in the country than in Western Europe, the statistics regarding the number of deaths in terms of population seems worse only in Belgium.
Despite the government’s confidence that Hungary’s healthcare system is capable of bearing the burdens caused by the epidemic, we are already hearing about a shortage of specialist staff in some of the hospitals. In addition, many hospital wards for Covid patients across the country have already reached their capacities.
Insufficient testing capacity
Another major problem Hungary is facing is its limited testing capacity. On Sunday, a record number of new infections were registered as nearly 19,000 tests were performed. However, one-sixth of them (3,149) came back positive. This means that despite the record number of tests, the rate of the positive ones stood at almost 17 percent, which was also a new all-time high. The rate of the positive cases, therefore, remains way above WHO’s recommended limit of no more than five percent, indicating that Hungary is still unable to conduct a sufficient amount of tests.
Furthermore, a few days ago, Hungary’s National Ambulance Service (OMSZ) announced it was unable to keep up with the surge of demand for Covid-19 tests so it had to deploy additional Covid-19 testing units. The government is also trying to expand its testing capacity by recruiting medical students to help conduct them.
Strict restrictions across Europe
Amid the surging cases, many European countries including France, Germany, and the UK have announced nationwide lockdowns similar to the restrictions seen during spring.
Many CEE countries have also reintroduced restrictions. In Slovenia, only stores selling essential supplies can remain open, in Croatia a strict limit has been placed on the size of social events, while using masks is mandatory even outside. Austria has also introduced strict restrictions, and from Tuesday all but professional sports events will be banned, while theaters, museums, swimming pools, and gyms have to close their doors. Meanwhile, Slovakia has already tested almost half of its population in a recently launched mass testing campaign.
But the Orbán government remains persistent that the key to resolving the current situation is not the implementation of tougher restrictions but for the Hungarian people to follow the already existing set of rules. The Hungarian Medical Chamber has also called on the government to take immediate action “…on the verge of a healthcare crisis, in the interest of doctors and patients.” According to PM Orbán, however, countries that had introduced “extremely tight” restrictions were not seeing any improvement in their case numbers.
Featured photo by Attila Balázs/MTI