Hungary’s coronavirus related daily death rate is on a frighteningly consistent upward curve. Hungary’s total deaths have surpassed 20 thousand people, and the question of when the rapidly increasing curve of the pandemic will peak is on everyone’s lips. Hungary’s health professionals and government officials offer various responses.
There is no clear answer as to when Hungary’s upward curve will stop, and when restrictions will be eased. Most calculations seem to indicate a peak and then a plateau near the end of April and a significantly better situation by June. Still, there are a few things that must be considered before jumping to conclusions about the end of the third wave.
Understanding Hungary’s Coronavirus Statistics
Balázs Pártos of Semmelweis University shared four graph projections of the coronavirus. The first two show that hospital capacity increases with active infections. This means that the government accommodates hospitals to meet the growing severity of the virus, and makes it clear that the virus is continuously worsening.
The third and fourth graphs show that people who die from the virus spend a certain amount of time on ventilators beforehand, since there is a lag between number of deaths and number of ventilators in use. Thus, according to Pártos, deaths will continue to occur even if the number of people on ventilators are no longer increasing.
Daily Deaths Shown to be Best Indicator
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) states that daily deaths are the best indicator of the progression of the pandemic, even with a 17–21-day lag between infection and deaths. As harrowing as they are, these numbers show the direct impact the virus has on Hungary’s population.
According to the institute, Hungary’s daily deaths will plateau on April 18, and then face a sharp decline. The current projection shows that by June there may only be roughly 15-25 deaths a day, lower if masks are worn universally.
Health Professionals Forecast Severe Situation for Weeks
János Szlávik, senior infectologist of the South-Pest Central Hospital, told public media on Saturday that Hungary is in “the most severe days” of the third wave right now, and that the situation will continue to worsen. The infectologist said Easter will be especially dangerous, since people are more likely to spend time with their families without masks.
Szlávik’s projection also points towards a slowing of the pandemic in mid-to-late April. He believes Hungary’s authorization of multiple vaccines allows it to be “capable of vaccinating a lot more people than many other European countries, but at the moment even this is not enough.”
According to Béla Merkely, rector of Semmelweis University, the severity of the pandemic should remain for another month and a half, followed by “a very nice summer, when families can be reunited, and when we will have the liberty to rest.”
Merkely added that thanks to the Chinese and Russian vaccines, Hungary’s vaccination rate is well over the European Union average. Hungary has vaccinated 20 percent of its population, significantly higher than the EU average of 12.5 percent. Still, its death rate per million is only lower than the Czech Republic.
Merkely also emphasized that even though the weather is getting nicer, everyone should remember to wear masks, since the British mutation can cause severe symptoms in every age group. If someone is infected while wearing a mask, however, a smaller amount of the virus ends up in the body and can potentially be less harmful.
Virus Researcher Rusvai Emphasizes Immunity
Virus researcher Miklós Rusvai told M1 that the virus could plateau within the next few days. He believes the British mutation of the coronavirus, which spread through Hungary in January, is responsible for the current situation.
Rusvai emphasized that immunity is a key factor in curbing the pandemic, since whoever has recovered from the virus or has been inoculated has a significantly lower chance of spreading it. He believes herd immunity to be the only path to having a summer which is not ruined by the coronavirus.
Hungary’s Coronavirus Still Faces Upward Curve
Ágnes Galgóczi, Expert in Public Health at the National Public Health Center (NNK), said that Hungary is currently still in the upward curve of the third wave, and that continued disciplined behavior and adherence to restrictions are crucial.
Galgóczi told public media on Sunday that ten thousand new cases had been reported on Saturday, and that everyone’s priority right now should be to stop the spread of the virus.
Restrictions must be adhered to during Easter as well, she said, this means maintaining social distancing, washing hands, using disinfectant, and wearing masks. Galgóczi said families should not have large gatherings, and that grandparents should only be visited if they have been inoculated.
PM Orbán: Plateau Phase Must Be Considered
On Kossuth Rádió’s “Good morning, Hungary” program last Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that it is not certain that numbers will immediately begin to decrease immediately, but may instead remain in a “plateau phase” where they continuously remain at a high point. He said that he will not engage in predictions for now.
Examples of such a plateau occurring continuously include the Czech Republic and Belgium. The Czech Republic hit a two-week plateau in its death rate before falling back down, while Belgium’s plateau lasted ten days before death rates were reduced.
If Hungary faces a similar situation, its total number of deaths could grow by 10 percent in a one-week plateau, or even 25 percent in a two to three week plateau.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI