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Coronavirus in Hungary: 12 new cases, 5 new recoveries, 6 patients in severe condition

AJO 0460
2020.03.20. 10:40

Twelve people tested positive for COVID-19 in Hungary on Friday, the government's coronavirus website informed shortly after 7:00 AM. About an hour later, during his weekly interview on public media, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán revealed that six of the patients are in severe condition, but there were five new recoveries.

Viktor Orbán said that it is possible to slow the spread of the disease down, but in the end, case numbers will balance out in Europe, adding that the real problem could be if case numbers increase sharply, potentially leaving the country without enough ICU beds for everyone who needs them. This requires expanding capacities and slowing down the rate of incoming patients in need of intensive care.

The Prime Minister said, "we have millions of masks, we are manufacturing them too, for instance in prisons, we are acquiring the raw materials and we are purchasing all types of masks." That is difficult due to the border closures, so these shipments mostly arrive by air, Orbán explained, adding that but they are not asking for anything, they are not going to the European Union to ask, they are solving this on their own.

There is enough equipment for the current level of infection, but as the government expects the disease's further spread they will be buying more, saying that there is a priority in who uses these: Healthcare workers first, then law enforcement, then the administrative workers.

Orbán said that the "collective defence" has been established, and the most important thing if the disease becomes a mass infection is to have the medical working group properly inform people by that time about what to expect if someone contracts COVID-19, what kind of symptoms will they go through, what exactly will happen to them, but a working group is also working on finding a way to at least symptomatically treat patients by altering existing medications.

If case numbers rise, so does the number of people requiring intensive care, so the necessary conditions must be ensured, the PM explained, adding that most of these cases will happen in the senior population, which is why he repeatedly asked the elderly to stay at home. It would be really wrong to make compulsory rules for senior citizens according to Orbán, still, "it is possible that it would come to that, but I really want to avoid it."

The coronavirus situation in Hungary

Hungary closed borders to all foreigners except for residence permit-holding EEA citizens and spouses and parents of Hungarian citizens on Monday after declaring a state of emergency last Wednesday. This Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced an economic relief program which includes suspending all loan payments in the country until the end of the year. As 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.

(Cover: The Szent László block of the Central Hospital of Southern Pest, the primary hospital assigned to treat coronavirus patients. Photo: Orsi Ajpek / Index)

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