Exactly one year ago, on March 4, 2020, the first positive coronavirus case was registered in Hungary. In this brief summary we take a look at how this dangerous pandemic started spreading in the country by identifying the key milestones throughout the year. As mass vaccination is yet to have significant effects on curbing the epidemic, and the country is at the beginning of the third wave, there is still a long way to go until the end. Summary.
The authorities identified the first positive cases on March 4, 2020, when it turned out that two Iranian students – who probably had been infected with the virus during one of their previous trips abroad – were symptom-free- but nevertheless had been taken to Budapest’s St. László Hospital. One of the two Iranian coronavirus patients was a pharmacy student at Semmelweis University, the other a student at Szent István University in Gödöllő, who went into voluntary quarantine after returning home.
The first coronavirus-related death was reported on March 15th by the newly created Task Force, led by Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller. By the second half of March, Müller declared that the virus had spread to every part of the country. So far, the outbreak of the virus has spread across Hungary in two waves, and recently it has been announced that the third wave has commenced.
The first wave of the virus
On March 11, 2020, the government ordered a controversial state-of-emergency in connection with protective measures against the new coronavirus, which was said to be a special legal order, a period different from peace and the general rules of state operation.
On March 16th, PM Viktor Orbán declared that Hungary would close its borders to all passenger transport and only Hungarian citizens were allowed to enter the country. The government added that all events were banned as well as pubs, cinemas, and other cultural facilities closed. A further milestone was the closure of schools, which had to continue education through digital channels.
The number of registered Covid cases exceeded 100 on March 21st. The number of active cases then saw a continuous increase throughout the spring, surpassing 2,000 in the first half of May, then declining in the following weeks. During the first wave of the virus, the daily number of fatalities remained below 20 people.
The second wave
In August 2020, it became clear that the second wave of the epidemic began after the number of daily cases had more than quadrupled in just that month. On the 1st of August only 15 new cases were identified, whereas by the end, nearly 200.
In September, the situation further deteriorated. The number of active coronavirus infections in Hungary rocketed from 1,820 to nearly 20,000. Meanwhile, 165 people died just in that month alone. The spike in the number of active coronavirus infections continued throughout the following months, spreading rapidly.
The government was hesitant to make changes despite more and more people falling ill. But by November, the epidemic became so severe in Europe and in Hungary as well, that strict restrictions were introduced again.
The number of active cases hit its new maximum in the second half of December with an astonishing 198,785. This was followed by a plateau phase and a sharp decline in the concurrent number of infected people.
Furthermore, there was a short period of time in December when 68% of all coronavirus tests in Hungary were positive. In comparison, WHO suggests that the virus can be controlled when 5% of tests are positive, with a limit of 12%. Unfortunately, the number of daily fatalities did not show such a sharp decline and remained relatively high with 104 deaths at its lowest on December 25th.
In January, the overall statistics showed a significant improvement compared to December. The number of daily registered coronavirus infections halved in the last month, with a similarly reassuring decrease in the number of active cases (from 158,548 to 92,094). However, from mid-February onwards the numbers quickly deteriorated again, when the official start of the third wave was declared.
Third wave and vaccinations
In the past few weeks, Hungary’s coronavirus stats yet again showed a surge in the number of daily cases, especially by the end of February, marking a new milestone in the fight against the disease. The number of daily infections quadrupled since the 1st of February as data shows an increase from 1,124 to 4,469 new cases by the 28th of February.
In terms of vaccinations, it appears that more and more people are willing to be vaccinated and that trust in the jabs are increasingly growing. So far, 785,440 people have received their first jab, and 267,153 have been fully inoculated.
Today, on March 4, 2021, exactly one year after the first positive cases were identified in the country, the Orbán government again announced strict lockdown measures, arguably stricter than ever before in an effort to tackle the third wave of coronavirus infections.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI