Hungary has a death rate which, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, has only been seen in a handful of other countries. With 272 deaths in the last 24 hours, Hungary currently has the highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths per one million people. According to Worldometer, it has the second highest total number of deaths proportionately to its population at 1,994 per million people since the outbreak of the pandemic. The only country ahead of it with a population greater than one million is the Czech Republic.
Outside of the fact that hospitals are crowding with people requiring intensive care and ventilator treatment, every day new records in cases and deaths are being reported.
There is no way around accepting that this crisis is getting out of hand, Hungary’s numbers have surpassed Belgium, the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Almost 20 thousand people have died from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hungary’s Death Rate Catching up to Czechia
It is important to be cognizant of which measures are being analyzed. With around 10 million citizens at home, Hungary does not appear to have such a noticeable crisis when cases and deaths are compared cumulatively. The severity of the issue is made visible when Hungary’s cases are looked at relative to its population.
Daily deaths in Hungary passed Czechia on March 22 and have been steadily climbing since then. This is especially worrying when considering that the Czech Republic’s numbers are currently decreasing, while Hungary’s are skyrocketing.
Worse Than Last Year’s Scare in Italy
In the past seven days, out of every one million people, 150 died because of Covid. To put that into perspective, when in 2020 the world was shocked at Italy’s Covid situation, the country’s death rate remained under 100 people out of one million.
The main difference between Hungary and Italy’s situations, is that while Italy was one of the first to face the virus head on, Hungary has had over a year to stop such a crisis from happening. Another difference in the two situations is that while Italy asked for international aid, Hungary has not reached out, but has continued to assert that the surplus of ventilators will solve the problem.
It is highly likely that Hungary is now facing the worst weeks of the pandemic and may eventually plateau the way Czechia has. Czechia’s death rate hit a two-week plateau at the height of the second wave before falling again, while in Belgium such a plateau lasted for ten days, until deaths were once again reduced.
If this is the case for Hungary now, its total number of deaths could grow by 10 percent in a week, or by 25 percent in two to three weeks.
Why Is the Death Rate so High?
A noticeable discrepancy in the statistics is that while Hungary is second in the list of deaths, it is not even among the top 30 countries in the number of people tested per million, VálaszOnline points out. This indicates that not enough PCR tests were conducted, resulting in the virus being present in large numbers of people unknowingly. People who should have gone into quarantine were not required to do so.
Unlike its reaction to the first wave, many of the government’s decisions during the second and third wave involving restrictions and school closures came too late, VálaszOnline argues. The lack of quick action resulted in the entry and spread of the much more dangerous UK coronavirus variant, which sparked the ignition of the third wave.
Furthermore, a glaring problem is the shortage of workers in the healthcare field. Countless healthcare workers have testified that they are overburdened by the situation, and there are statistically not enough nurses and doctors for the number of people requiring ventilator treatment and intensive care.
The overburdening of healthcare workers does not help either since they are not able to provide the most effective care they can to their patients. Hospitals have reportedly also begun triaging, prioritizing the care of those patients who are most likely to survive, since they simply do not have the personnel capacity to care for everyone.
Government Denies Validity of Death Rate Statistic
In the government’s most recent press conference, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás denied the assertion that hospitals are understaffed.
According to him, the idea that “not all patients are receiving care is fake news,” since all patients are getting the care they need, Hungary has 1678 ventilators and 10 thousand hospital beds available, which are enough for everyone in Hungary.
Gulyás chose to deny the validity of the death rate statistic, but instead focused on the fact that registered Covid cases per 1,000 citizens in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia were all higher than in Hungary.
According to Gulyás, the reason why Hungary’s numbers are so high is because unlike other countries, it includes people who would have otherwise passed away in its coronavirus related deaths. Gulyás believes Hungary’s deathrate is actually better than most countries.
The situation is dire, there are many cases of infection, but this does not stray from European data, it is not true that Hungary has the highest deathrate. Other countries do not declare people who die to have had Covid. Only excess mortality matters. Many were critically ill, and they would have passed away anyways, but were still recorded as having Covid. [The government] always took the necessary measures on time, there was no rush here, like there was in other countries. Consistent, planned measures.”
Another key takeaway from the press conference is that the Hungarian government does not appear to be planning to request international aid. Minister Gulyás said the Hungarian government does not require international aid to help its healthcare system deal effectively with coronavirus patients.
The minister also noted that 500 medical students and graduate volunteers have applied to the National Hospital Directorate-General to help ease the burden on hospital staff treating Covid-19 patients. What he did not mention, however, is that many of these students returned from the experiences severely traumatized by the severity and magnitude of a job which they were not yet prepared for.
International aid could potentially help reduce the growing death rate in Hungary, since more healthcare workers providing aid would directly improve the quality of care provided to those severely infected with the coronavirus. Until then, it appears that the death rate will continue to climb.
Featured photo illustration by Károly Árvai/MTI/kormany.hu