Strange data appeared in the government’s official Covid statistics that no one has been able to explain, reported government-critical Népszava. According to the newspaper, more or almost as many people were hospitalized and even ventilated because of the coronavirus in recent days than in the same period last year. According to experts, it is not yet possible to draw a conclusion from this. Meanwhile, WHO is investigating a new variant of the virus.
This article was originally posted on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute. Translation by Júlia Tar
Népszava recently compared coronavirus data from 2020 and 2021. According to the report, 210 people were hospitalized on Tuesday of this week, 24 of them requiring mechanical ventilation.
The newspaper sought out the ministry responsible for healthcare and the operative board, seeking information about the possible background of the data. In their response, the authorities emphasized the importance of vaccination, but did not explain the possible background for the data, nor did they write anything about what conclusions could be drawn from it. The newspaper, therefore, interviewed virologists on the subject.
“It is true that the number of hospitalized and ventilated individuals has increased faster than the number of covid cases in the past week, although the opposite should be happening,”
an expert told the newspaper.
The anonymous virologist added that although the phenomenon is highly unusual, more than a week’s worth of data would be needed to infer anything about it.
Another expert pointed out that it is almost impossible to compare the same period last year and this year because the delta variant came into the country in a completely different way than the last fall wave. Only after the fourth wave has passed will it be meaningful to compare the two periods, he said.
According to infectologist, Erzsébet Pusztai, two things can currently be established with certainty based on international examples. First:
“Whereas with the ‘basic virus’ one infected person transmitted the disease to three others, with the delta variant, it is six to eight, and therefore we should take protective measures much more seriously. On the other hand, we know from international examples that an unvaccinated person who contracts the virus is much more likely to have severe respiratory symptoms than a vaccinated person.”
Ferenc Falus, former state office physician, also finds the rising Covid-19 numbers unsurprising, because according to his calculations, about five million people in Hungary are currently unprotected against a virus that is even more contagious than its earlier variants. Falus adds that half of the half-million people who previously received the Synopharm vaccine are equally unprotected, and this also applies to those who were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year until around February. It is difficult to see this clearly because of the lack of central testing, and more and more people are taking rapid tests but not reporting the results.
What is the situation in Europe?
Just a few days ago on September 7th, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that their Technical Lead for COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said:
“…the delta variant for me is the one that’s most concerning because of the increased transmissibility. It’s doubly transmissible compared to the ancestral strain, which means that it can spread to more people.”
Dr. Van Kerkhove added that delta continues to evolve and scientists are studying to see how the virus might be changing, with new variants continuing to emerge.
New York Magazine wrote back in August that “in the U.K., the Delta surge began in mid-May and peaked in mid-July; in the Netherlands, it began at the beginning of July and has already peaked. […] While there still may be some rise in deaths in both the U.K. and the Netherlands, given the lag between infection and ultimate outcomes, in neither country have deaths reached even one-fifteenth of the level of the local winter surge. In the U.K., they had almost as many new daily cases as they’d had in January; in the Netherlands, even more.”
According to health experts in Berlin, Germany is experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Among the unvaccinated, the occurrences are high and this group especially has to be treated in hospitals. This was also confirmed recently by the German Minister of Health, Jens Spahn. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the reason for this is mainly the highly contagious delta variant. Dr. Van Kerkhove also said that there is generally “a lot of circulation among unvaccinated people.”
Intensive care units in Germany are currently treating 1,404 COVID-19 patients (as of September 3rd). Of these, 743 patients require ventilation. A total of 25,381 ICU beds are operational in Germany, of which 15.4 percent are still vacant.
From Tuesday to Wednesday, 2,268 new coronavirus infections were registered in Austria. Compared to the previous week (1,848 cases), that’s 420 more cases. This is a record since April 2021, and the country reported three new deaths. Vienna is still in favor of mass testing. It is likely that the high number of new infections is partly due to this. In a single day, a total of 123,532 PCR tests were performed, with a positive rate of 1.84 percent. Accordingly, Chancellor Kurz has again announced stricter Covid-19 measures.
WHO’s Dr. Van Kerkhove says that the situation globally is “quite worrying.”
“We shouldn’t be having this number of cases around the world, especially because we have the tools that really can prevent that from happening,”
Mu Variant – The new dominant coronavirus?
WHO has added the “Mu variant” of the coronavirus originating from Colombia to the list of variants under observation. Experts suspect potential in it to become a dominant strain of the virus. Mu was responsible for 69 percent of infections in early July, according to Colombian scientists.
Dr. Michael Ryan, Head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said that “not every variant means the sky is going to fall down.” The Mu variant is increasing in South America but numbers are decreasing in other countries where the delta variant is circulating. Dr. Ryan also said that delta currently “tends to outcompete other variants.”
“Each variant needs to be looked at for its characteristics in terms of its potential to cause more severe disease, its potential to transmit, its potential to escape vaccines,” he said.
Featured image: illustration via Tamás Vasvári/MTI