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Coronavirus in Hungary: Hundreds of new cases expected in the coming days

2020.03.17. 17:40

Once again on Tuesday, the Hungarian government's coronavirus task force informed the press about the latest developments.

Response team leader Tibor Lakatos informed that Romanian and Bulgarian citizens blocked the Austrian side of the Hegyeshalom border crossing protesting that they could not cross Hungary to get to their home countries. As they were blocking cargo traffic, Lakatos announced that the Hungarian authorities will allow them through on the corridor established for cargo transit at the following times:

  • Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will be allowed through between 9:00 PM and 24:00 PM on Tuesday,
  • From midnight to 5:00 AM on Wednesday, only Romanian citizens will be allowed through.

Lakatos also warned that fraudsters are threatening the elderly, trying to offer cleaning services falsely promising to prevent COVID-19 - police is taking action.

Hundreds of cases expected

Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller warned that right now, there are 50 coronavirus cases in Hungary, but that number is likely to multiply over the next couple of days, she is expecting several hundred patients. The healthcare system is adapting to the changes, Müller said, once again calling attention to the fact that the elderly are especially endangered. She urged senior citizens not to leave their homes, or if they do, to keep a 2-metre distance from other people.

The Chief Medical Officer announced that Hungarian researchers managed to isolate the virus, therefore, work on the vaccine can begin in Hungary as well.

Müller also addressed a number of frequently asked questions;

  • Outdoors and sporting activities are still recommended for healthy individuals, she said running on Margaret Island or going for a hike in the countryside is still safe unless done in big groups.
  • Obligatory vaccinations will be administered as scheduled, only the so-called 'campaign vaccinations' that are administered in schools will be reorganised.
  • Regular medical check-ups can be postponed.
  • Fathers with no symptoms can still attend births in proper protective gear.

Questions from the press

Several reporters tried to ask why Hungary refuses to release any details on the confirmed cases and why there is not an infection map like in all other European countries, but Müller said "we know where the patients are and we are examining them," adding when she was asked if at least the ages of patients could be released, that after the pandemic is over, there will be analyses that will include anonymised data. 

She did, however, reveal that only two of the patients are in severe condition and that she has no information about minors being treated for coronavirus.

Responding to the question if the 2000 life support machines mentioned by the Prime Minister on Friday are all available or if this number includes those that are currently in use, but Müller just said that "we have received reports about 2000 life support machines," adding that there are plenty of machines and even more will be purchased.

As to when Hungary plans to start mass testing, Müller said a "lot of tests" are on their way to Hungary, laboratory capacities are being expanded, and mobile testing units will be established.

Müller also said that members of the Hungarian Parliament are not tested by default and Lakatos confirmed that Parliament will continue to gather.

The coronavirus situation in Hungary

Hungary reported the first fatality on Sunday.

Hungary closed borders to all foreigners except for residence permit-holding spouses and parents of Hungarian citizens on Monday after declaring a state of emergency last WednesdayAs of Monday morning, universities and schools are closed, education will continue remotely. All events are banned, cafes, restaurants, non-essential stores have to close at 3:00 PM each day (pharmacies, drug stores, grocery stores, tobacco stores, and gas stations can remain open longer). Hospitals in Hungary no longer accept visitors since last Sunday, doctors, medical staff, and public officials require special permits to travel abroad. Last Monday, the government has allocated more than 8 billion Forints (~€24 million) for the coronavirus response. 

During his interview on public radio on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said "foreigners dragged this disease into the country," and previously, he told European leaders during a teleconference that "there is an obvious link between the coronavirus and illegal immigration." Earlier, the government suspended access to the transit zones on the southern border where asylum-seekers could apply for refugee status.

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 last Thursday.

Click here to find all our English coverage about the coronavirus situation in Hungary.

(Borítókép:  Védőfelszerelést viselő nővérek egy kórtermet készítenek elő a koronavírussal érintett új betegek fogadására kialakított egyik osztályon a fővárosi Szent László Kórházban 2020. március 16-án. - fotó: Szigetváry Zsolt / MTI)

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