The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Hungary in recent weeks has not been high compared to some European countries. However, the spread of Covid-19 has just begun to reach a new level in the country. As of now, without a cure, the only thing we can do is to slow the spread of the virus to protect the healthcare system from collapsing. Therefore, it is important that we comply with all safety and hygiene instructions.
Flattening the curve
There is no cure yet for the new sars-cov2 virus, and even the most optimistic expert estimates are that it will take at least one year before a reliable, widely useable vaccine can be produced.
This means the disease is unstoppable. As renowned network scientist Albert-László Barabási said: “about half of the population will become infected within the coming year. In the absence of an intervention, the process follows a well-studied Gaussian-like curve — rapid growth, a sharp peak, and then decline.”
The only thing we can do is to slow the spread of the virus, this way saving „our parents and grandparents, and in some cases ourselves as well,” the scientist noted.
A graph tweaked and tweeted by Drew Harris, an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health in Philadelphia, perfectly highlights how the preventive measures can give some breathing room for the healthcare system. His picture refers to the US, but the same principle applies to Hungary as well.
Important to remember that #Covid-19 epidemic control measures may only delay cases, not prevent. However, this helps limit surge and gives hospitals time to prepare and manage. It’s the difference between finding an ICU bed & ventilator or being treated in the parking lot tent. pic.twitter.com/VOyfBcLMus
— Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH (@drewaharris) February 28, 2020
With sars-cov-2 now spreading around the world, the aim of public-health policies is to flatten this curve, spreading the number of people infected out over time. This way, Hungary can deal with the disease and care for those infected. However, if the number of people infected reaches a critical point, neither those infected nor other people with other life-threatening illnesses will be properly tended to, as the healthcare system would collapse.
Hungary is in a better position right now, but we are only at the beginning of the epidemic
According to an up-to date international list (updated many times a day), based on the official numbers, Hungary is among the least infected countries in Europe, be it the number of cases, the active cases, the number of deceased, or the proportion of cases compared to the country’s population.
As news portal Index reports, the central European region and Hungary were fortunate enough to have the first coronavirus infected patients arrive a little later than in the most infected countries such as Italy, (if we accept official data as an indicator of the spread of the disease), so the governments already knew that they had to make the toughest decisions.
The Austrian, Czech, and Hungarian governments also responded around ten days or so, and were quick enough to close schools, borders, and ban events. The only step Hungary hasn’t taken is imposing a curfew. Many have already done so, for example, Czechs, Austrians, Italians, and the Spanish.
Even though, according to official data, the situation has not yet escalated in Hungary, as relatively few patients have been diagnosed with the disease, this in itself does not mean the country shouldn’t prepare for the worst.
Everything points to that the new coronavirus is just about to spread wide in Hungary. We are only at the beginning of the epidemic.
As chief medical officer, Cecília Müller outlined a few days ago, the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Hungary has just entered its next stage, going from isolated cases to clusters; as a result, the number of cases in the country increased by 26% from Wednesday to Thursday (from 58 to 73 people infected). According to Müller, all decisions are aimed at “flattening the curve” of the epidemic, that is, to reduce the number of illnesses.
Furthermore, Gergely Gulyás, head of the prime minister’s office, emphasized on Thursday that the actual number of people infected with the novel virus in Hungary could be up to ten or fifteen times higher than the number of confirmed cases.
As around 80% percent of people infected may not even show any or only slight symptoms, the number of infections is expected to grow rapidly in the next few days.
This is why it is extremely important that we comply with all safety and hygiene instructions, wash our hands regularly, and stay at home whenever possible, and also avoid gathering in groups. Social distancing is another crucial practice, so everyone should keep a distance of at least 1 or 2 meters from others. Schools, nurseries, and universities in Hungary are now closed, most people are working from home, and restaurants, bars, and coffee shops all have limited opening times in an effort to keep people at home. The elderly and people with certain health conditions should especially stay in their homes, but it is also important for young people to do so since they are more likely to carryw the virus without displaying any symptoms, thus infecting others more easily.
Featured photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI