Photo: MTI

Orbán: Easing of restrictions not yet within reach

British variant spreading fast in Hungary

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom is now in the phase of spreading in the community in Hungary, the chief medical officer said. So far, the "British variant" has been isolated in 400 patients, most of whom have not travelled recently, showing that the variant is spreading within the country, Cecilia Muller told a press conference of the operative body responsible for handling the epidemic.

A Hungarian-developed method enables public health experts to test sewage specifically for the “British variant”, Muller said. Traces of the virus were found in the waste water of large cities, including Budapest, Debrecen, Tatabanya, Szekesfehervar and Gyor, she said.

Meanwhile, 9 patients were diagnosed with the Czech variant of the virus, and another 34 with another variant that is “insignificant from an epidemiological point of view,” Muller said. The Brazilian and South African variants continue to avoid Hungary, she added.

Meanwhile, the third wave of the epidemic is gathering momentum in Hungary, Muller said.

She cited data on the government’s website as saying that 102 people died and 2,855 have contracted the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. While the victims are mostly elderly and suffering from underlying conditions, there are “almost every day young people among the fatalities who could have been saved by the vaccine,” she said.

Noting that the Chinese and Russian vaccines have been administered to over 30 million people worldwide, Muller asked the public to “put aside fears” and take the vaccine they are offered. All five vaccines approved in Hungary protect against an illness with serious and possibly life-threatening complications, although “there is no 100 percent protection,” she said.

Muller said she hoped some 368 thousand shots could be administered next week, most Sinopharm jabs, which have already been distributed to GP offices nationwide. GPs will give out 50-55 jabs on average of the Chinese vaccine, she added.

Orbán: Easing of restrictions not yet within reach

A decision to ease restrictions introduced to curb the coronavirus pandemic is not yet within reach, with the possible exception of the ban on visits to elderly care homes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. Speaking after the second round of consultations with epidemiological experts in a three-day series, Orbán noted in a video posted on Facebook that administering China’s Sinopharm vaccine started in Hungary on Wednesday, “an important day … it gives me hope too that leaders of the protection efforts may also have their turn sometime next week.”

“The situation is not easy,” Orbán said. While the amount of vaccines arriving in the country is growing, Hungary is also threatened by a third wave of the pandemic, he said.

“Those two tendencies … work against each other,” he said, citing experts as saying that everyone who can should get the vaccine.

Although lifting the restrictions is not in sight, the government will look into finding humane solutions to the situation in care homes for the elderly, Orbán said. Those facilities have an 80 percent inoculation rate by now, and the residents are suffering gravely from the ban on visitors and outings, he said.

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