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First coronavirus patient recovers in Hungary

63A3297
2020.03.12. 15:54

his is a developing story, our article is continuously updated.

One of the Iranian students treated at the Central Hospital of Southern Pest (DPC) is the first person in Hungary to recover from Covid-19, János Szlávik, the head of the hospital's contagious unit announced at the daily press conference of the government's coronavirus task force. The first Hungarian national to be diagnosed with the virus has  also recovered, he contracted the virus working on the Princess Diamond and was treated in Japan.

At the start of the press conference, head of the task force Tibor Lakatos announced that the temporary border checks and screenings on the Austrian and Slovakian border started at midnight, authorities have since been checking all cars intending to enter Hungary at five major border crossings, 40 other crossings are preparing to either start border checks or shut down. Four Hungarian citizens were given home quarantine orders and two Romanian citizens arriving from Italy and two South Korean citizens were turned back at the border since last night. The Hungarian army will assist the authorities in the coronavirus response effort.

Lakatos explained that the official documents of Hungarian nationals that would expire during the state of emergency will expire 15 days after the special legal order ended, however, this does not affect documents of foreign citizens, including visas and residence permits. Lakatos added:

Hungarian authorities will deport foreign nationals who violate quarantine rules.

For information on the special measures introduced with the state of emergency announced on Wednesday, see our previous article here:

Government official Csaba Dömötör announced that the government will start an information campaign for senior citizens advising them to avoid crowds, closed spaces, and public transportations, and urging younger generations to assist their older relatives for instance, by doing their groceries.

First recovery in Hungary, three new patients

János Szlávik, the head of the contagious unit at the DPC informed about the three newly confirmed patients:

  • One of the patients is a 27-year-old Iranian student who was already quarantined, Szlávik added he was one of the "disorderly" patients mentioned at previous press conferences.
  • Another patient is a 27-year-old Hungarian woman who had been to Israel (though the initial official press release mentioned a man) and had met foreigners of unknown nationality not much afterwards.
  • The third new patient is a 41-year-old Hungarian citizen who did not meet any known coronavirus patients and had not been abroad. Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said the only lead they have is that some of his colleagues went on a ski trip to Austria, "but this information may have to be revised."

Szlávik announced that the first person to recover from Covid-19 in Hungary is one of the Iranian students who will be released from the DPC later on Thursday. Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó also announced another recovery earlier today, the Hungarian man who caught the disease working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess was finally confirmed as healthy in Japan on Thursday.

Müller explained that somebody is considered to be recovered after two or three consecutive negative tests, depending on the patient's risk category.

Questions from the press

Schools will not close yet, Lakatos told a reporter, as the results such a move can yield is disproportional to the disruption it would cause, though he himself admitted that pupils are able to carry the virus. Schools will be shut down only if recommended by epidemiological experts. Children are still not threatened by Covid-19, Müller added, but it would be dangerous if grandparents would have to care for them if the schools closed.

The numbers on the government's coronavirus website are only updated once on most days, Müller said this is because the data has to be properly validated before publication. There is a plan for expanding hospital capacities as well, when the DPC will not be able to handle more patients in quarantine, it will focus on treating confirmed cases, while other hospitals will take on quarantine duties.

When asked about rising sample numbers, Müller explained that the laboratories are performing more and more tests as the case definition is continuously expanded. The number of countries affected by the pandemic is growing, and so are test numbers; last night, they performed the 730th coronavirus test, laboratories are working non-stop with the exception of a few hours every day.

When asked about cinemas circumventing the ban on indoors events with more than 100 people by selling 99 tickets, Müller said there could be more drastic steps taken later, the limit was set at a 100 people because "you have to draw a line somewhere." She added that authorities are doing what is necessary, but 99 people sitting right next to each other is "highly irresponsible behaviour."

Several media outlets including Index had reported that since they were introduced last night, checks on the Austrian and Slovenian border were random at best. Lakatos said "random checks are not a solution, every entry has to be checked," but did not expressly confirm or deny this information. Home quarantine orders will be enforced by police, Lakatos confirmed, but as of yet, it's not clear how, there are four people currently affected by such orders and police practice has not yet crystallised, but "a system will be established."

The coronavirus situation in Hungary

According to the latest update (10:40 AM) of the government coronavirus website,

IN HUNGARY, 16 PEOPLE ARE INFECTED, 65 ARE IN QUARANTINE, AND 730 SAMPLES WERE TAKEN FOR TESTING.

These numbers do not account for the first (and so far, only) recovery, the site was last updated before the announcement.

Confirmed cases in Hungary until now:

  • Hungary announced the first two cases in the country on last Wednesday, two Iranian university students studying in Budapest and Gödöllő were infected on their (independent) trips to Iran.
  • Two more confirmed cases were announced on last Thursday, one is a 69-year-old British man living in Debrecen who returned from Milan by plane last Friday, the other is the girlfriend of one of the Iranian students.
  • fifth case was announced on Saturday morning, a 70-year-old Hungarian man in poor health tested positive. The sixth patient is the wife of the British patient diagnosed on Thursday. 
  • The seventh person to test positive was another Iranian student who attended a birthday party with one of the first two confirmed coronavirus patients.
  • Two more cases were announced on Monday morning - a former Iranian student of Semmelweis University and the wife of the 70-year-old Hungarian man diagnosed on Saturday.
  • Three other Iranian students of the Semmelweis University tested positive on Tuesday.
  • thirteenth case was announced on Wednesday morning, a Hungarian woman already quarantined as a contact of the British patient.
  • Another Iranian student, a Hungarian woman quarantined in the Szent János hospital, and a Hungarian man who recently returned from Israel tested positive this Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Hungary to sixteen.
  • According to the latest official information, one of the patients (an Iranian student) has already recovered, all of the others are in a satisfactory condition except for the 70-year-old Hungarian man treated at the ICU, but as János Szlávik informed the Chief Medical Officer, he seems to be getting better as well.

Hungary declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, and introduced border checks, travel restrictions concerning Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea, shut down universities and banned all large public events.

Hospitals in Hungary no longer accept visitors as of Sunday, schools are advised to postpone class trips, doctors and medical staff are requested not to travel abroad. On Monday, the government has allocated more than 8 billion Forints (~€24 million) for the coronavirus response.

On Friday, Hungary suspended issuing Visas to citizens of Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to deny entry into the country for Iranian citizens with valid visas as well - this does not affect those who are already in Hungary. 
Earlier, the government suspended access to the transit zones on the southern border where asylum-seekers could apply for refugee status.

On Saturday, the Hungarian government cancelled their main event on the March 15th national holiday. The City of Budapest and the opposition parties soon followed suit. 

The first Hungarian citizen to contract Covid-19 was a man who worked on the cruise ship Diamond Princess was confirmed to have the disease at the end of February and was treated in Japan. He reportedly recovered, testing negative on Thursday.

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