Coronavirus: Hungary’s rise in cases despite aggressive vaccine rollout

In the past 24 hours, 211 Covid-19 patients have lost their lives in Hungary.

Meanwhile, 6,566 new cases were recorded as per the number tally on the official website. Active infections rose to 247,292 as hospitals catered for 11,571, of whom 1,140 were on respirators. Since the outbreak, 685,979 infections have been recorded while the number of fatalities rose to 21,715. In total, 416,972 people are fully recovered.

These developments come a few days after Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed no doubt in the possibility of a “free summer” due to the number of vaccine doses being administered. 

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Compared to other European member states, Hungary is several steps ahead in its vaccination schedule, only coming second to the tiny island nation of Malta. Data from the  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) gives 25.5% as the number of people who have taken their first vaccination doses in Hungary, followed closely by 9.8% who are fully vaccinated with the second dose. 

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Hungary has decided to fast track the rollout of the Russia and Chinese vaccines yet they haven't received approval from the European Medicines Agency. Hungary was the first of Europe’s countries to approve Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine in January. China’s Sinopharm also got approval in February. 

While European countries jostled over supply-related issues tied to the AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines, Hungary has been administering the Chinese and Russian vaccines since the last week of February. 

Early this month, two new vaccines got approved. The Covid-19 shot produced by China's Cansino Biologics and CoviShield, India’s version of AstraZeneca. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech ordered through the EU brings the total number of vaccines ordered to seven.  According to the country’s Chief Medical officer, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would become available in the latter half of April. 

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Despite the aggressive vaccine rollout, Hungary has been unable to prevent the health crisis. The past week saw a record number of deaths and cases reported. CNN reports that the country has the second-highest number of deaths per capita, 209 per 1000 people - only exceeded by the Czech Republic. 

A great deal of concern has been raised on the dire situation in Hungary’s hospitals. Independent news outlets have written open letters to the government requesting open access to the health facilities, vaccination centers and Covid ICUs. The Government spokesman instead castigated “left-leaning” websites of spreading “fake news”. 

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As reported by CNN, Zoltan Kovacs, the government spokesman,attributed the rise in new deaths to the new, more contagious UK variant. He however, defended the country’s response by confirming there is no shortage in equipment and personnel. 

Hungary went into lockdown on March 8, forcing all non-essential stores and schools to adjust to remote learning. Store closures lasted till March 22, while primary and nursery schools will remain shut until April 7. At the moment, Hungary is just one of other European countries battling resurgent new waves.