Hungary’s reopening has been prompted by the vaccination of 2.5 million citizens. Considering the situation in Hungarian hospitals, as well as both daily cases and deaths, it may not yet be time for such bold action. Many countries have already attempted to lift their pandemic restrictions, but few have been able to do so successfully.
According to the New York Times, Hungary ranks 11th in the world in terms of its vaccinated population. Ahead of it are countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Chile.
UK, Israel, and USA Continue Cautious Reopening
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the second stage of reopening measures will take effect on April 12. They will include the reopening of all stores, outdoor service from pubs and restaurants, and the reopening of gyms, swimming pools, zoos, theme parks and libraries.
People who live under the same roof can go on vacations within the country’s borders. Weddings can be held with a maximum of 15 people, and funerals with a maximum of 30, kids can take part in any indoor event.
The United Kingdom is only making these reopening decisions after having vaccinated 31 million citizens, its average cases staying at 3500, and its daily death rate staying around 35 people.
Israel began lifting restrictions much sooner than the rest of the world. Stores began reopening at the end of February, as well as schools and cultural and sports centers.
At the time of reopening, Israel had inoculated 40 percent of its population within two months, however that number now stands at 60 percent receiving the first jab and 55 percent receiving both the first and second.
The country employed green, yellow, and orange zones based on the severity of the virus in different areas. Green areas allowed for the most freedom for people to gather, while the “red” zones allowed for smaller groups to gather.
The United States
Covid laws in the USA vary based off states. Texas had eliminated its mandatory mask rules in less dangerous areas and had reopened most of its stores. Now masks are no longer required nationwide for those who have been vaccinated, and there are fewer restrictions on the service sector.
The UK, Israel, and the United States are among the most vaccinated countries in the world.
Austria, France, and Romania Remain Closed
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Tuesday that once pressure is alleviated on hospitals and more people above the age of 65 are vaccinated, reopening will be much more viable. They are aiming to lift restrictions in May.
Austria has different rules for different areas, based off the severity of their Covid situations. While businesses, museums, libraries, and zoos can reopen, FFP2 masks must be warn. Masks are also required on public transit, in stores, markets, and at service providers. Catering businesses and hotels remain closed.
Austria reported 35 fatalities and 1,935 new infections on April 6. It has had a total of 563 thousand registered cases and 9,517 registered deaths.
France, which has vaccinated 14 percent of its population, has enacted stricter pandemic measures to quell the spread of the virus.
Schools will be closed, people are suggested to work from home once again, a curfew will remain in place between 7 am and 6 pm, people must remain within 10 kilometers of their homes, and only gatherings of six are allowed outside. Travel between counties is only allowed for essential or official reasons.
France will maintain these restrictions for four more weeks, emphasizing that they are necessary because of the overburdening of intensive care units.
29 thousand people are in hospital care in France, 5,300 of them in intensive care units. Its average daily death rate is slightly higher than Hungary’s at 276 people per day.
The Romanian government has announced that it will begin lifting its pandemic restrictions in June. Prime Minister Florin Cîțu said that a committee is being created which will come up with the conditions of Romania’s reopening.
Cîțu said the loosening of restrictions can now be considered since data shows that the third wave of the coronavirus plateaued in Romania a week ago. The country aims at vaccinating at least 35 percent of its population before lifting restrictions.
Early Reopening May Have Dangerous Consequences
Die Zeit asked several German healthcare professionals about loosening restrictions, to which they responded that reopening right now would only worsen the situation.
If a country reopens while it still has a high and increasing number of cases, its healthcare system may become extremely overburdened, the newspaper says.
Germany’s Covid cases appear to have plateaued recently, with 218 thousand active cases of infection out of its 83 million person population.
The rolling 7-day average of the country’s daily death rate stands at 162 people, far lower than Hungary’s 239, especially when considering that its population is more than 8 times larger. Still, the Merkel government is choosing to keep pandemic restrictions in effect.
Chile can be considered as an example of why it is not a good idea for a country to reopen too early. The country had already vaccinated more than one third of its population by March, performing far better than most other countries in South America.
During its warm months in January and February, many people travelled, and despite professionals warning it against doing so, the government reopened shopping malls, restaurants, churches, and schools on March first.
Now Chile’s healthcare system is so overburdened with Covid patients, that, according to one doctor, at least 20-30 percent of its healthcare workers have temporarily left their workplaces.
Bulgaria reopened despite its coronavirus infections are increasing at record breaking intervals. This increase in the virus’ spread led to restaurants, theatres, movie theaters, museums, and gyms being shut down on March 22 only to be lifted again on April 4, right before the elections.
Bulgarian Minister of Health Kostadin Angelov emphasized that despite the country being at the height of the third wave, hospitals are not under capacity. They also expect vaccinations to speed up.
The Serbian government has allowed restaurants and bars to reopen their outdoor services following Covid protocols, despite the country’s 22 percent vaccination rate slowing down and its number of cases being relatively high at 12 thousand new infections registered during Easter.
Vaccination willingness is also waning in Serbia, likely due to the presence of a strong anti-vaccine movement.
Considering that it has the highest daily new confirmed Covid-related deaths proportionately to its population, now may not be the best time for a reopening in Hungary. Other countries should also be taken into account, such as Chile, where, despite a high vaccination rate, reopening proved to be catastrophic.
What could be especially dangerous about reopening in Hungary’s current state is that hospitals which are already overburdened being faced with even more patients requiring intensive care.
In the featured photo illustration: reopening in Israel. Photo by MTI/EPA/Abir Sultan