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Coronavirus: Rapidly Rising Numbers in Elementary Schools, State-Financed Testing Becomes More Difficult

Hungary Today 2021.10.20.

In Hungary, the fourth wave of the coronavirus has so far mainly affected elementary schools, forcing some to quarantine classes or change to online education. Even though not long ago only 4 percent of the institutions were said to be battling with serious infection rates, the situation seems to be detoriating.

This article was originally posted on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute. 

Pupils under the age of 12 are especially at risk, who unlike their parents or older siblings could not be vaccinated, says Péter Horváth, president of the National Teachers’ Chamber (NPK). He therefore agrees with those schools that have introduced certain measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing. He finds it necessary in those institutions where the percentage of those vaccinated is lower, or the students are not allowed to be vaccinated because of their young age. But these decisions were made locally, since the government has not made mask-wearing compulsory, not even in elementary schools.

In the recent period, the number of schools affected by covid has now doubled.

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Coronavirus: Active Infections Surpass 15,000, More Than 1,000 Covid Patients in Hospital

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About 270 school facilities are affected, but the measures have so far been introduced only in certain classes and not in the entire school. According to another teacher’s union, the situation will further worsen if the mask requirement or checking temperatures are not imposed.

Ungarn Heute has been informed that there are already several schools around Budapest where several classes have already been quarantined. According to a new regulation, only children who have not been vaccinated will be quarantined, even if their school has mandated mask-wearing. However, if someone has been vaccinated or has already recovered, they do not have to be quarantined.

In Hungary, free (or more precisely: state-financed) corona testing is difficult to obtain. A reader told our sister-site that although his child was quarantined because several of his classmates were sick and his son already had a fever as well, the doctor did not order a “home test” for the boy.

The father would have had to travel 70 km with his sick child (35 km to Budapest and 35 km back) to get him tested for free. So the family opted for a self-paid test, which costs 19,500 forints (about 53-54 euros). Since they have three children, the total cost of the tests is almost 60,000 forints, but at least they don’t have to take the trip with the sick children.

He also said that contact tracing seems to be taken seriously now, with the state agency NNK calling the parents of infected children and questioning them in depth. However, it is unfortunate that the slow state testing (it often takes a week after the first symptoms to get results!) also delays the quarantine time, which is calculated from the time the sample is taken. (With state tests, you have to wait several days even with symptoms). So if someone has several sick children at home who are infecting each other, the family can be quarantined for up to a month.

Ungarn Heute‘s reader also said that his pediatrician told him that these days he had to order as many tests each day as he had ordered in the entire last month. And most of them have been positive recently.

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Another interesting rule is that if someone spent less than 15 minutes with an infected person(s), they are not sent to quarantine- not even if no one else was wearing a mask, not even the sick child in the room.

It is also significant that there are almost no epidemiological measures in Hungary at the moment. There is no obligation to wear a mask, not even in closed or busy places, and that Hungary is very far behind in testing compared to neighboring Austria (Austria has done more than 92 million tests so far, while Hungary just over 7 million).

The country’s chief physician, as well as the minister of health, has been virtually absent from public view for months. Meanwhile, whomever visits the the official government website “koronavirus.gov.hu” can often read more about how the government will stop energy prices, raise pensions, or reclaim the family tax rather than about the actual and detailed coronavirus situation in the country.

Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI