Covid-19 – Ever Grimmer - Daily Infections Smash 3,000 Threshold – But Foci Must Continue
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Just one week ago, a Czech-based friend emailed me after reading the latest post on the state of Covid-19 in Hungary.
“Compared to here, this is child's play,” he wrote. It is true that the Czech Republic, which had an excellent record in the first wave of the pandemic, is having a terrible time currently: the country of just 10.65 million (about 10% more than Hungary) registered over 11,100 new infections on October 17, and it has since got worse. But where Czechia was, Hungary may well follow. Photo: Gary J Morrell, journalist and faithful
Fradi fan, says he kept his mask in place
throughout the game yesterday - except
when eating and drinking. This past week has seen daily infections soar, initially breaking the 2,000 level for the first time on Thursday, only to hit a new daily high of 3,149 this morning (Sunday, October 25). To put this into perspective, in the first wave of the pandemic it took a little more than two whole calendar months, from March 4 to May 7, to accumulate 3,150 cases of the virus in Hungary. On Saturday, that unwelcome number – minus one - was achieved in 24 hours. This all means that new infections last week totalled almost 13,000 (12,957), an average of 1,851 per day – a 50% rise on the previous week. Deaths related to the virus last week amounted to 283, or 40 per day: again, a 50% rise on the 188 reported one week previously. The numbers included a record 48 deceased on Tuesday. It's also clear that the provinces are being hit hard – possibly because the first wave was much more focused around Budapest, and people got lax. Active cases outside the capital increased by more than 8,500 last week to almost 30,000 (29,860). In Budapest, cases rose by less than 2,000, ie fewer than one quarter of the provincial increase, to reach 11,720.
“We’re still alive, thanks, but surrounded by covid,” one friend, living in the sticks about 80 km south of Budapest, wrote to me on Thursday. “Kunszentmiklós has loads of cases now. My friend’s sister and two teenage daughters all tested positive this week. As of last Friday [ie October 18], the police were checking over 80 quarantined homes in town. The ‘red-door-sticker‘ jobbies,” she wrote. And, it is probably worse than is being recorded. As the same friend reported: “Another friend’s boyfriend has felt terrible with a high fever and cough for several days but can’t get tested. Not sure if the doctors are incapable or incompetent or lacking tests or what. All I know is around here, … It’s depressing as hell. If I could avoid going out, I would!!”
As for leadership in these difficult times, the government-funded Hungary Today headlined a story on Thursday: “Coronavirus – Orbán: Wearing Masks only Way to Curb Epidemic”. https://hungarytoday.hu/coronavirus-orban-hungary-mask-wearing/ One might think it worth questioning that reasoning, of course, as some do. For while it is perfectly understandable that the Prime Minister wishes to keep the economy working, there is a cost – in lost production through illness, in cost of treatment, future health issues of those infected - and lives. A balance must surely be the aim. “I'm not surprised,” a Magyar friend responded when told of the record 3,149 new infections earlier today. “Did you see the photos of the Fradi-Újpest football match? 16,000 fans in the bleeding stadium!” he wrote, referring to the attendance at yesterday's game – billed as Hungary's most fiercely contested derby - between Ferencváros and Újpest.
In case you haven't guessed, that friend is not a football fan. Unlike journalist colleague Gary J. Morrell, who is not only a proud Fradi loyalist, he was at the game. “The match is usually a sell out. Yesterday the 22,000-capacity stadium was around 80% full as NB1 matches have no restrictions on crowd numbers. However, ticket holders were warned in advance that mask wearing was compulsory on entering the stadium and during the match by the club,” he told me. At least, that is the theory. He admits, however, that since fans are allowed to drink beer and smoke, keeping to the rules “presented a potential problem”. Morrell estimates “around 70% of attendees” continued to wear masks during and after the match, but “social distancing rules did not appear to have been followed in the areas where the ultras congregate and the areas around the bars”. Website 444.hu, in an article entitled “There are already curfews in a number of countries: [meanwhile] here, we have 16,000 spectators at Fradi-Újpest.” provided further evidence.
A cursory look at photos of both sets of fans tells its own story regarding mask-wearing behaviour, see: https://foci.444.hu/2020/10/24/tobb-orszagban-mar-kijarasi-korlatozas-van-nalunk-osszegyult-16-ezer-nezo-a-fradi-ujpestre
(If this link doesn't work, go to https://444.hu/ and scroll down about four stories - click on the photo of the game.) In terms of football, the final result left Fradi with 2-0 victory.
In terms of Covid-19 infections and deaths, the final result will take time to assess, assuming it ever is. But hey, we must keep the economy going.