BUDAPEST, Hungary — Nearly three weeks of lockdown restrictions in Hungary have shown little sign of slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the country comes off a week of record-breaking hospitalizations and deaths that threaten to overburden its healthcare system.
Hungary’s emergency task force on Monday reported that 7,734 COVID-19 patients were currently hospitalized and 666 were being treated on ventilators, both record highs. The number of new daily cases hovered near the record mark for most of last week despite lockdown restrictions introduced on Nov. 11, which included a ban on events, the closure of high schools and universities and an overnight curfew.
Last week, 872 COVID-19 deaths were registered in Hungary, the deadliest week by far since the start of the pandemic. The number of deaths broke the daily record three days in a row between Friday and Sunday, and the single-day record of 156 deaths, set on Sunday, was scarcely lower than the total of 166 that died in all of September.
In an interview Friday with state broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban predicted there would be “enormous pressure” on the country’s healthcare system in coming weeks as hospitalizations continue to rise.
“As regards hospitals – because after all, saving lives is the number one priority – at the moment I can’t see any promising signs,” Orban said, but added he was “optimistic” that the curfew measures would soon show positive effects.
Authorities will reassess pandemic measures after they expire on Dec. 11, Orban said.