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In recent weeks, data has shown that less new coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in Hungary, while the number of active cases slowly declined and new cases stagnated. However, despite all the reassuring information within the country, as the pandemic intensified in neighboring countries, the government and many experts are preparing for a possible second wave of the coronavirus. But how likely is it that the coronavirus will return? And if it will, when?

After border closures and travel bans were lifted, and everyday life restrictions were eased, the number of infected people started to increase again in several places where the epidemic had been declining. In the United States, for example, the epidemic intensified again in mid-June, just as in China- considered the starting point for the virus- where the number of infections jumped again after a few months of decline in the numbers, but new local foci have also developed in Europe, such as in a meat factory in Germany.  In many places, the resumption of tourism due to the newly-opened borders and lifting of restrictions – and thus the movement of tourists who may carry the virus from one country to another – is also increasing the number of new cases. As a result, in several places the restrictions that had already been lifted have been reinstated to prevent the spread of the disease – as it also happened yesterday in Hungary.

Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, announced that the government is introducing international travel restrictions with the aim of preventing the virus from being imported from abroad, and to avoid a possible new wave of the coronavirus epidemic. Gulyás said that although “Hungary is today among the safest countries in Europe,” given the circumstances and the newly reported outbreaks around the world, the government is putting the health and safety of Hungarians foremost and is doing everything possible to prevent the virus’s return.

Hungary Reintroduces Travel Restrictions to Prevent Import of Coronavirus from Abroad

But is it definite that the coronavirus will return?

Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler said in a video interview uploaded to the Ministry’s Facebook page, that he thinks the country is in a very similar situation as in March, and “we have reached the brink of the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic.” The minister said the infection affects every continent, and currently, there are places where it still rages. New infections have also skyrocketed in several neighboring countries in recent days, such as in Romania, where the daily rate of new infections reached 6-700 people in the last couple of days. According to Kásler, it seems that “the second wave has already started in our environment, or if you like, the second phase of the first wave has intensified.” Kásler added that it is now of utmost importance that the government makes the right decisions at the right time.

The Minister also added that during the first wave, Hungarians behaved in a disciplined manner, they were health-conscious, but this is still needed. Masks should still be worn in the designated areas, and it is also important to avoid gatherings, keep distance, and wash hands, he added.

How Protected is Hungary Against a Possible Second Wave of Covid-19?

The rector of Semmelweis University, Béla Merkely, also thinks that the second wave of the epidemic is sure to come, but in his view, it will not happen in the summer. According to Merkely, what we are currently seeing around us is still the first wave of the epidemic. The first wave, in an optimal case, starts with the number of confirmed infections rising, then it reaches a peak, followed by a plateau, and then the number of new infections and active patients slowly decreases.

According to the doctor, the second wave also depends on how the virus survives the summer. Now there is no school, and fewer people go to work, which is conducive to the development of an epidemic. In September, as schools and universities start again and parents will go back to work, there will be more possibility for a second wave to occur, while the cold weather also slowly increases the infection rate of the virus. However, he added that if the so-called superinfectors, who can infect most patients, can be removed from the system, there is already a good chance that the epidemic will stop. Merkely said that the restrictions imposed in the first wave would be very difficult to enforce on the citizens once again. On one hand, because it would be difficult to expect people to keep up the discipline for such a long time, and on the other hand, it would be extremely dangerous for the economy and jobs as well.

Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics, also talked about the chances of a possible second wave in an interview with Világgazdaság. He said they see a chance that the number of coronavirus cases will increase in Hungary as well, as this is also the trend in the surrounding countries. According to Palkovics, if the number of infections increases, some of the restrictions will have to be reintroduced, but in the meantime, basic precautions such as maintaining distance from one another, or wearing masks in shops and on public transport should be followed.

He also said that further relaxation of restrictions is not expected, so it seems that events larger than 500 people will not be given the green light, and the government may even ban those that have already been permitted. According to an earlier decision by the government, it is not permitted to hold events larger than 500 people in Hungary until August 15th, and this is still in effect. Gergely Gulyás said on Sunday that the government meeting on Wednesday will decide whether to keep the programs on August 20th and if they see it justified, they will possibly cancel them. If Palkovics’ expectations are met, it could affect the fireworks on St. Stephen’s Day, and even festivals postponed to the second half of next month, such as EFOTT, Fishing On Orfű, the SZIN, and the Colorado Festival.

featured photo: Csaba Bús/MTI

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