Hungary extends lockdown until 15 March

Photo: AP Hungary is to extend a partial lockdown until 15 March with coronavirus infections expected to rise in the next two weeks, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

Hungary is to extend a partial lockdown until 15 March with coronavirus infections expected to rise in the next two weeks, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

The next two weeks would be “exceptionally difficult”, Gergely Gulyas told a government briefing, adding that the pace of vaccinations would accelerate after Hungary started to roll out China’s Sinopharm vaccine on Wednesday. He said Orban was expected to receive a Sinopharm shot next week.

“The third wave (of the pandemic) has reached Hungary and COVID numbers will worsen in the next 1-2 weeks,” Gulyas said. “Some people say we will see a dramatic worsening.”

On Thursday, Hungary reported 4,385 new infections, the highest number this year. Hungary, with a population of around 10 million, had reported 414,514 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 14,672 deaths.

The restrictions in place since 11 November- including an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery service, and the closure of theatres, spas, hotels and other establishments - must be kept in place, he said.

The Hungarian government last week launched a survey asking for citizens’ opinions on lifting pandemic restrictions, and on the possibility of issuing immunity certificates to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

Such certificates will become available after 1 March, Gulyas said, and the government will later decide what special rights will be afforded to certificate holders.

So far, just over half a million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Hungary on Wednesday became the first European Union country to start inoculating people with Sinopharm shots, after rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V as part of its vaccination campaign. The Chinese and Russian vaccines have not been granted regulatory approval in the EU. These shots are now being administered along with the Pfizer-BioNTech, vaccine and shots developed by US company Moderna and Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca.

According to the statistics office, there is a rising willingness to get a vaccine, with 40% saying in mid-February that they planned to get a vaccine and 26% saying they may.

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