If we take a look at both the number of deaths and the daily number of registered new cases, we can see that the epidemic curve in Hungary is developing in a strange manner. Although both figures appear to be stabilizing, the lockdown measures introduced last week should only have an effect in 14-30 days. In addition, based on other epidemiological data, as the number of those hospitalized or needing ventilation rises, the daily number of deaths should increase steadily instead of the current stagnation, which is rather a moderate decrease.
During any prior period of the Covid epidemic in Hungary, a clear pattern can be seen. First, we witness a sharp increase in the number of new cases, followed by a spike in hospitalization within a few weeks, then a rise in the number of fatalities.
It is quite logical: as more and more people become infected, a higher number will need hospital treatment, and as the number of those in serious condition rises, more people will die.
The epidemic curve of the number of registered new cases- those in hospital, those on ventilators, and the number of daily fatalities have all been rather similar, each category results within days of each other.
This time, however, the data provided by the government’s operative board seems to tell a different story.
One week before the Orbán government decided to introduce strict restrictions on November 11th, the number of deaths had set a new record almost every day, exceeding 100 daily deaths twice just that week.
Last week, however, the accelerating rise in the number of fatalities came to a halt. It reached last week’s daily death record of 107 twice but did not exceed that number, and since then it even consistently fell below 100. (There were even two consecutive days in the past two weeks when the number of daily fatalities fell to 56 and 55).
This trend is rather strange in light of two other important indicators: the number of people treated in hospitals, and those on ventilators, because these two statistics have shown a moderate but nonetheless steady rise.
On Wednesday there were 7,512 patients in hospitals, 604 on ventilators. Today, these two numbers were 7,499 and 581 respectively, showing a constant steady rise in the past weeks.
What makes the halt in the rise of Covid-related deaths even less explicable is the fact that according to the authorities, in Hungary, everyone who died and was at any point tested positive for the virus, is added to the statistics of those who died due to the coronavirus regardless of the exact cause of death.
There is one more indicator that shows a sign of an even more significant decline in the past days: the number of daily new cases. Since the record high 6,495 registered cases on Monday, the number has fallen by around 1,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today, the newly registered Covid cases are at 4,440. This is quite a sudden change, and even the country’s chief medical officer said that the government’s restrictions will only show up in statistics weeks later.
One reason that could somewhat explain this phenomenon is that Hungary has yet again reached the limit of its testing capacity. This is somewhat contradicted by the fact that the proportion of positive tests has fallen recently to around 20 percent, unfortunately still not even close to the 5 percent threshold recommended by the WHO.
Of course, there can be multiple logical explanations for the above-mentioned anomalies – Hungary’s healthcare system has perhaps become more effective in saving the lives of Covid patients, or the decrease in the newly registered infections might lie in the fact that people took preventative rules more seriously even before the new restrictions were introduced. Or, it could be a result of a mix of many other factors, but given that no official explanation has arrived to clear the smoke we can do nothing else but show the strange phenomenon.
Featured photo by János Vajda/MTI