Coronavirus in Hungary: Infections, Deaths Edge Up as Health Services Feel Strain
Photo: The Coronvirus does not pick and
choose - an official poster urging vigilance
in the fight against the pandemic
Mixed news regarding the Coronavirus pandemic this week, which began with an ominous 6,495 new infections reported on Monday morning - a frightening new record for a 24-hour period at more than 1,100 (or 22%) above the previous high. Fortunately, this proved to be a short, sharp spike, and numbers eased during the week for a seven-day total of 33,657 new cases, ie averaging just over 4,800 per day. That is still an unenviable record, 7.4% up on the previous week and representing 343 new cases per 100,000 population for the week, but at least the new infections came down towards this weekend.
Total active cases across the country now come to 127,903 – up 21,600, or a 20% week-on-week increase - with almost 7,200 patients are in hospital, of whom 618 are on ventilators, according to government statistics - see https://koronavirus.gov.hu/#/ The number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19 came to 703, or fractionally over 100 per day on average, up 6.7% on the previous week. Again, this is an unwanted new high, but compares well when viewed against the rate of increase at the end of October. At issue, however, is whether these figures reflect the true state of affairs. Numerous independent press reports and anecdotal evidence told to myself indicate significant numbers of suspected infections are not being recorded because of an inability to test.
Just seconds before planning to post this, a friend in the provinces sent me this.
"I was talking to a friend yesterday who knows several people who have died from Covid. She herself tested as having antibodies, a friend persuaded her to be tested because she had a runny nose and a cough for 24 hours and felt tired. She thought it was just a cold, so a few weeks later, out of curiosity, [she] got the antibody test. Lo and behold, she has tested as having antibodies to COVID-19. So that must’ve been it, but she had no fever." Then there are issues among the health-care professionals themselves. Dr Tamás Dénes, President of the Trade Union of the Resident Doctors and Specialists, and who went down with the virus in October, said at the time he contracted the virus a cumulative total of 4,000 medical professionals in Hungary had gone dowh with the virus. Meanwhile, in the middle of this pandemic, the attempts by the government to introduce a new health-care administration system, along with new conditions for doctors and nurses, is undermining morale among staff across the sector.
“This [new] law was written in a hurry, it is full of mistakes, [and] it was not [properly] discussed with the medical chamber,” he said. Dr Tamás Dénes, President of the Trade Union of the Resident Doctors and Specialists, told foreign journalists this week. While he stressed his belief that the new legislation will, after further negotiations, ultimately lead to better conditions for health-care professionals, the current uncertainty in the sector caused by the threat of far stricter working conditions prescribed in the new law means “everybody is more depressed. The message that this law sends, and the way they've put it into effect, and how they try to negotiate, it's not sending a good message,” Dr Dénes said. The government, meanwhile, is continually reporting positive news regarding the arrival of vaccines and medicines to combat the virus, and urging citizens to maintain discipline regarding masks and social distancing. Officials, such as Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller, repeatedly emphasise that any positive impact of the new restrictions, including the curfew from 8.00 pm to 5.00 am, will only be felt from next week. It's a moot point though: on Saturday evening, doing a shop at around 7.00 pm on Moszkva - sorry - Széll Kálmán tér, your correspondent observed an awful lot of young people buying bottles of wine who appeared well set for partying, and most definitely not returning home before the onset of the curfew. I suspect that means a lot of youth sleeping on couches and floors in the same room together, which potentially rather negates any good achieved by the curfew and closing bars and restaurants. If those infection rates don't start diminishing soon, tighter restrictions on private gatherings could well be on the government's agenda. The question then is, given youth's seeming incapacity to comprehend the danger, how would it be enforced?