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Coronavirus

Hungary Began Loosening Its Lockdown Restrictions

BUDAPEST — Hungary began loosening its lockdown restrictions on Wednesday even as another daily record in COVID-19 deaths was broken and a surge in the pandemic gripped the country’s hospitals.

A slow downward trend in the number of deaths was interrupted as authorities announced 311 new deaths, coming only hours after Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that certain lockdown restrictions would be lifted on Wednesday. Hungary’s government earlier decided that the lockdown could be loosened once 2.5 million Hungarians had received at least a first dose of a vaccine, a milestone reached on Tuesday.

While daily new infections continue to decrease in the hard-hit Central European country, the number of those being treated in hospitals remains over 12,000. Some medical experts have expressed reservations about the plans to lift the lockdown as the current pandemic surge continues to peak.

As of Wednesday, most businesses and services may reopen if they enforce maximum indoor capacity limits and observe social distancing. The start of an overnight curfew in effect since November will be extended by two hours, and the opening hours of businesses will also be extended.

Hungary has the third-worst COVID-19 death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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