Hungary registers new spike in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron variant

Doctors wearing protective gears at the intensive care unit of Honved Hospital treat COVID-19 patients during the pandemic of new coronavirus COVID-19 in Budapest, Hungary, 15 December 2021. [EPA-EFE/ZOLTAN BALOGH]

Hungary, one of the EU countries with the least stringent COVID-19 restrictions, has faced a new spike in coronavirus infections this week due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

On Monday, the country registered 270 deaths over 72 hours, and over 20,000 new infections, Hungary Today reported.

So far, over 40,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the country, while the total number of infections has increased to almost 138,000. Over 2,500 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in Hungarian hospitals.

Hungary has a vaccination rate of just over 60%, well below Western European levels. Currently, just over 6 million people of the 9.8 million Hungarians have received two shots, while the booster jab has been administered to 3.4 million citizens.

Meanwhile, the government is already offering a fourth jab, despite the European Medicines Agency (EMA) expressing doubts about a fourth booster shot last week.

COVID-19 measures in the country remain relaxed, with restrictions being some of most lenient in Europe, according to the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker.

Hungary is among the few EU countries that have not implemented measures on school or workplace closures, while mask-wearing is mandatory in indoor places and public transport.

So far, COVID-19 vaccines are obligatory only for teachers and healthcare workers.

On Sunday, over 1,000 people took part in a march in Budapest to protest against the “COVID dictatorship.”

The rally was organised by the far-right Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland Movement) party, which has been leading an anti-vaccine campaign ahead of the next general elections in April.

(Silvia Ellena | EURACTIV.com)

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