Coronavirus in Hungary - Have we Passed the Peak?
Official Data in the Past Week is Hopeful
As I left home at around 11.00 last Thursday I was surprised to find an oldish chappie in the hall delivering letters, since he wasn't our regular postie.
Photo: My official letter to register for vaccination
It was an even better surprise – in terms of administrative action – that indeed he was not bringing regular post, but a letter from none other than Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Müller for oldie folks to sign up for inoculation against Covid-19.
That was pretty darned quick, I thought the surprise being that the measure had only been announced a day or perhaps two earlier. And not only that, but the admin had included yours truly, as I'm 'only' a legally registered foreigner. Of course, the system should work thus – I've been legally registered, paid taxes etc for years - but it was good to see it does.
Of course, this government is excellent at public relations, nobody disputes that, and getting a letter out is, in relative and absolute terms, the easy part. Realistically, getting a safe inoculation may prove more difficult.
This, however, was minor 'good news' compared to the data on the strength of the pandemic this week. For the first time since July, the official numbers of new cases and deaths from Covid-19 have come down week-on-week.
The past seven days has seen 30,122 new infections, that's down some by some 9,600, or 24%, on the first week of December. Deaths too have edged lowerto 1,097, which is 99 fewer, or 8% down, on the previous week.
The data is encouraging, and led to Dr Müller saying last week that there was hope that the pandemic had plateaued (Apologies, I can't find the source for this, but I'm certain I read it.)
However, all this must be taken in context: the death rate is still the second-worst week on record, with total deaths, now at 6965, set to top the 7,000 level today.
Indeed, in terms of the 14-day cumulative deaths, the statistics have still deteriorated compared to last Sunday. As of today Hungary had 23.5 deaths per 100,000 population (was 21.2 last week), meaning it remains the third worst performer in the former 28-member European Union. Only Slovenia, at 25.7 deaths per 100,000 head, and Bulgaria, at 26.8, have worse figures.
As for infections, the weekly number is currently around what it was one month ago, which at the time felt alarmingly high.
Worryingly too, the number of people actively suffering from Covid-19 is at a record 192,683, which is almost 20,000, or 11.6% more than a week ago, although those being treated in hospital (and therefore, presumably dangerously ill) has edged down to 7,646, some 60 fewer than last week.
Perhaps of even more concern, the Hungarian Medical Chamber reported on Tuesday that the number of healthcare workers dying of the Covid-19 virus had doubled in the previous nine days, reaching 32 in total, including nine general practitioners. In a service already suffering from shortages and overload, this is not good news.
Clearly, even if the infections and deaths have peaked, there is a long way to go. And that is assuming the official figures are accurate: certainly the infection data early last week seemed suspiciously low (Monday's numbers, at 2,219, reported on Tuesday morning extraordinarily so - this soon after several days of numbers above 6,000 infections)
Many Hungarians are sceptical: a poll published by the daily Nepszava - the one national daily still critical of the Orban government - on Tuesday claimed 43% of Hungarians believed official coronavirus data was being manipulated according to the government's political interests.
We shall see: meanwhile, you may have noticed the letter to yours truly from the CMO has not been opened; I certainly remain sceptical of the inoculation programme – by which, the government now admits, means Hungarians will be part of the proving process for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
But so far, so good. Emergency restrictions remain in place, except the pensioners' allocated shopping hours have been scrapped, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has decided not to lift the current curfew restrictions on New Year's Eve. A ruling on whether some easing will be allowed over the Christmas period will be made closer to the holiday.
I wish everyone a safe and healthy week, and those in hospital a safe and speedy recovery.
ps The answer to, and WINNER of, KesterTester 17 (The Pope) is now posted under KT18 - Red Ball, Brown Dog, Grey Day, Bronze Bust.