Second coronavirus patient in Hungary studied in Gödöllő

D MTI20200305031
2020.03.05. 15:17

On Wednesday afternoon, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler informed the press about the latest developments on the coronavirus situation in Hungary, announcing that the second confirmed patient studied at the Szent István University of Gödöllő, and authorities are performing the patients' contact investigations. Later, the university revealed accurate information about their infected students, and we found out that the patient studying at Semmelweis also attended a language course at the Goethe Institute two days after he was tested for the virus.

In an unusual turn of events on Thursday, the coronavirus task force's daily press conference was held by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. He announced that currently in Hungary there are 2 confirmed cases, 24 people are under quarantine, and 230 samples were taken for testing. Orbán said that Hungarian efforts will focus on individual cases to avoid community infections.

The task force assessed that the coronavirus is a major threat to public health and to the economy, but human lives take priority, Orbán told journalists, adding that defense against the virus requires efforts from everyone, and asked the citizens of Hungary to be cooperative and understanding. Hungary will use all available resources to handle the situation.

"We have to avoid two dangerous things: we should not belittle the virus, but we should not incite panic either."

Orbán said that for now, there is no central order to cancel larger events, and the government will decide until Tuesday if the state events of the 15 March national holiday will be affected by the virus.

Answering Index's question, Orbán confirmed that the other patient studied at the Szent István University of Gödöllő, adding that he only learned that information on Thursday as well.

The Prime Minister said that Hungary's general financial reserves seem to be sufficient for handling the situation now, but later on, the government might establish a dedicated reserve.

Next to speak was Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler.

Answering a journalist's question, Kásler said that the Iranian students arrived back to Hungary on 22 February and asked to be tested on 24 February and they were quarantined the "day before yesterday or yesterday," adding that the police was involved in the contact investigation as well, as in the period between the arrival of the two infected students in Hungary and their isolation, they "lived their lives, attended classes, met their friends," and one of the Iranian students "could have met 15 or 16 people." Kásler said that none of the people they contacted had been quarantined yet except for the girlfriend of the patient studying in Gödöllő and the pregnant wife of the other who studies at Semmelweis - they are in isolation as of Wednesday. (Previously, János Szlávik, the head of the contagious unit at the hospital assigned to treat coronavirus patients said that one student returned on the 22nd, the other on the 28th.)

When asked why they only revealed that the other student went to the Szent István University in Gödöllő now, in response to a question, Kásler claimed the student did not disclose that information.

Kásler did not know how one of the Iranian students could have withheld that information - Kásler started talking about how police have tools to find that out, and he did not answer our reporter's questions about the group of infected tourists who visited Budapest at the end of February.  But he dodged answering a row of other questions as well, for instance:

  • Why can the authorities have no knowledge about what the Iranian students did for several days, or how many people they have met during that time?
  • How is it possible that apart from the patients' significant others, none of their other contacts had been quarantined?
  • How is it possible that we still don't know where exactly the infected tourists have been during their stay?
  • Why were the Iranian students tested for coronavirus if they did not show symptoms, when according to the protocol, tests are only done if symptoms are present?

When asked if the government's official coronavirus website will be available in English as well (as right now, it is completely in Hungarian), Kásler said "everyone in Hungary has received every relevant information," and explained how he ordered Hungarian healthcare workers to abstain from international conferences. When asked again, he said:

"There are many websites even as we speak, you can access these websites, you can read them. This applies not only to tourists but to Hungarians as well."

The Minister of Human Resources also mentioned that traffic restrictions concerning countries worst hit by the virus were on the table, but as no other European countries implemented such measures, the Hungarian government did not take this step yet.

Semmelweis: Infected student disregarded safety precautions

On Thursday evening, the Semmelweis University issued a press release saying that their infected student returned to Hungary on 22 February and first called the university's medical hotline for foreign students on the 28th. The call center directed the student to the Central Hospital of Southern Pest, but he did not go there, instead, he went to the university's general practitioner on 2 March. He did not have a fever at the time, but the GP suggested the student stays at home and organized his admission at the Southern Pest Hospital by 4 March.

The university's press release noted that they were the first institute to implement coronavirus safety measures - every student received an in-depth questionnaire on 28 January to measure the risks of coronavirus. 12 students have notified the university about their recent travels to countries hit by the virus, the university placed these students under epidemiological surveillance. The infected Iranian student did not respond to the questionnaire and did not adhere to the precautions issued by the university, the press release states.

This information contradicts what Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler said at the government's press conference about the coronavirus, as he stated that the first time the infected student requested testing was on 24 February.

Infected student attended a language course

The Iranian student of Semmelweis University attended German classes with a group at the Goethe Institute in Budapest on 26 February, Index learned. The class was two days after the student was tested for the coronavirus, but at the time, the results were not in yet (at least according to Kásler, who said the student was first tested on the 24th - since then, the university stated otherwise, see above).

There were approximately half a dozen other students in the study group, they were informed over the phone that they will have to quarantine themselves and their close family members, but there are students whom the institute could not contact yet. According to Index's information, the participants of the language course did not learn about their infected classmates from the authorities; one of them found out and told the others.

The Goethe Institute confirmed our information, and press officer Judit Klein told us: "As soon as we found out that he is infected, we informed everybody. We cooperate with the authorities," adding that the institute implemented precautionary measures last week, before the day the infected student showed up in class.

Szent István University releases information about the second patient

A few hours after the press conference, the Szent István University of Gödöllő released detailed information about their Iranian student who tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, which cleared up some of the confusion left by Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler. 

According to the university's press release, the student was enrolled in the university's post-graduate program, and to fulfill an academic requirement, he traveled to Iran on 20 February to attend a scientific conference set to begin on 22 February - it was ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The student arrived back in Hungary on 28 February (last Friday) and, as advised by the university, he went to the Central Hospital of Southern Pest for testing. The Iranian student then voluntarily quarantined himself in the flat he rented in Budapest and did not visit any campuses in Gödöllő or Budapest.

First two cases announced yesterday

The first two cases of Covid-19 in Hungary were announced on Monday evening. The two patients are both Iranian citizens studying in Hungary, but as János Szlávik, the Head of Infectology at the Central Hospital of Southern Pest informed this morning on M1, the two cases are unrelated. They both visited their families in Iran recently and arrived back to Hungary on 22 and 28 of February, but only tested positive for coronavirus this Wednesday.

One of the patients studies at the Semmelweis University of Medicine, where the student body claims he did not adhere to the two-week self-quarantine period requested by the university. The two infected students only show minor symptoms, they are currently in isolation at the Central Hospital of Southern Pest, and they will stay there until their complete recovery.

The Hungarian authorities are currently investigating how the two students caught the disease, where they might have moved within Hungary and whom they could have contacted. The English-language pharmaceutical sciences program at SOTE has 15 other students, the university ordered those who had contact with their infected classmate not to attend lectures and seminars.

Infected tourists visited Budapest

Authorities are also investigating a group of tourists who spent two days in Hungary at the end of February while carrying the virus. Czech authorities announced Tuesday that they have found two cases, citizens of the USA and Ecuador, the patients studied in Milan from where they traveled to Vienna, Brno, Budapest, and Prague at the end of February. 

On Wednesday, Hungarian authorities informed that the tourist group consisted of four women, three of whom were later found to be infected. They arrived in Budapest on 26 February and left on the 28th, and visited a ruin bar, a crepe shop, a pharmacy, and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath in the meantime, with at least one of them producing symptoms. 

If you show symptoms, call your doctor

On Monday, Hungary's Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said that in accordance with the updated coronavirus protocol,


Instead, they should call their doctor over the phone if they exhibit symptoms of the disease and have recently returned from an infected area. The doctor will proceed to ask the patient a series of questions to determine the likelihood of infection and will inform emergency services if they suspect a possible case. An ambulance will then take the patient to the closest contagious unit, and if the throat swab lab test returns positive, the patient will be transferred to the Central Hospital of Southern Pest for isolation and treatment.

(Cover:  Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda /  MTI)

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