By Krisztina Than and Jan Lopatka
BUDAPEST / PRAGUE (Reuters) – Hungary’s hospitals are under “extraordinary” pressure from an increase in coronavirus infection, the country’s surgeon said on Wednesday, as the country became a hotspot. during the third wave of a pandemic that hit Central Europe.
Like most countries in the region, Hungary managed to limit infection during the early stages of the pandemic last March through April with rapid and stringent containment measures.
However, a new wave of infections swept through the region in 2021 which saw Hungary this week overtake the Czech Republic to become the country with daily deaths from COVID-19 overhead. the tallest person in the world, according to data from Our World in Data.
Experts have determined this to be due to the spread of the more contagious virus variant first found in the UK, which accounts for most of today’s reported cases and infects entire families. .
The region is also home to many large factories where remote work is not possible and this time, governments were reluctant to quickly impose a shutdown, fearing another blow to their economies. after last year’s recession.
While new cases in the Czech Republic and Slovakia began to decline, Poland reported a record new case number of just 30,000 and the government considered sending patients to different areas to help hospitals match vice.
It has ordered theaters, shopping malls, hotels and cinemas to close the week before infection increases, but more restrictions appear before the Easter holiday, often hit. Signed with crowded church services in deeply Catholic country.
In Hungary, a country with a population of nearly 10 million, a total of 18,952 people died from the coronavirus.
“I ask you to do everything you can to avoid infection and avoid going to the hospital because the hospitals are struggling under an extraordinary burden,” said surgeon General Cecilia Muller at a press conference. .
Muller said around 500 volunteers – medical students and skilled medical staff – came to help in hospitals after the government made a call this week.
Earlier this month, about 4,000 health workers left the public health system as Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government began reforming, exacerbating the years-long shortage of medical staff.
On Wednesday, Tamas Sved, secretary of the Hungarian Medical Office, told the hvg.hu website that if new cases are not limited through reduced social exposure, Hungary could become the new vehicle for the worst state of the crisis.
“Without this we could reach the point that in Europe it would be a bigger city in Hungary and no longer Bergamo (in Italy) as a tragic example,” he said.
VACCINES: RACE BACK TIME
Hungary, the EU’s leader in vaccine imports and per capita vaccination rates according to data from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has injected at least one dose of vaccine for 1, 7 million people. But it is not enough.
“For some reason, most of Eastern Europe has failed to fight the pandemic,” said sociologist Daniel Prokop, who has watched Czech behavior through the pandemic.
He said in an article this week that on-site jobs were more common in Central Europe due to the number of factories – including major car manufacturers – located there. This has led to an increasing number of infections.
Lower incomes also mean more people are forced to work even if it means infecting themselves or others, he said. Regional governments pay less for sick time than Western Europe.
After the hospitalizations reached critical levels, the Czech Republic conducted a more severe shutdown on March 1 and conducted extensive workplaces testing. Since then, it has seen some improvement in the number of cases.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis admitted the mistake after criticizing the government for being slow to introduce restrictions in the fall when numbers soared earlier.
In Hungary, however, Prime Minister Orban discussed business options to cautiously reopen stores, even as circumstances increased. The government will soon decide the measures for Easter. All remote schools until April 7.