Hungarian hospitals under strain from COVID-19 surge: surgeon general

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – COVID-19 admissions are putting Hungary’s hospital system under increasing strain and infections are expected to rise further in coming days as the variant first identified in Britain spreads, the surgeon general said on Tuesday.

Cecilia Muller said numbers of hospitalised COVID-19 patients reached 8,270 on Tuesday to exceed a December second-wave peak.

“The pandemic situation is very serious in Hungary,” she told a briefing, adding that 833 people were on ventilators, also more than December’s high.

With the third coronavirus wave sweeping Central Europe, Czech Republic has asked Germany, Poland and Switzerland to take in patients, while Slovakia is also struggling to cope.

Germany, meanwhile, is cautiously easing lockdown curbs.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday he expected hospitalisations to rise to 15,000-20,000, adding that the health care system should be able to cope without external help.

According to data he cited in February, Hungary has 2,296 beds equipped with ventilators, and over 15,800 ready to receive COVID-19 patients.

Orban’s government has tried to avoid a tough lockdown to prevent a repeat of the deep recession that followed spring 2020 curbs, but it toughened restrictions on Monday, extending a night-time curfew and closing all schools and most shops.

The country of about 10 million – the first in the European Union to use Chinese and Russian shots as well as Western ones – has also accelerated its vaccination campaign, with 1.047 million people inoculated by Tuesday.

(This story has been refiled to add dropped word ‘from’ to headline)

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