The COVID-19 and Hungary

The COVID-19 pandemic reached Hungary in early March. Despite all the preventative measures, Hungary had its first registered coronavirus patient on March 4th declared by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The government set up an operative body to monitor and bring decisions regarding the prevention and management of the COVID-19 threat. The leader of this operative body are the Home Secretary and the Minister of Human Resources of Hungary alongside with the Chief Medical Officer of Hungary. The Government of Hungary also receives initiatives and directives from the Hungarian Medical Association regarding preventative measures.

By March 30th Hungary registered 447 infected 34 healed 15 deaths and 73 people under hospital quarantine. Medical professionals refer to these days as the “silence before the storm” and they expect a vast increase in the number of infected people in the upcoming weeks. The government decided to initiate a lockdown from March 28th to April 11th. This lockdown is not as strict as the one in Italy or Spain for now. People over 65 can go shopping between 9-12 am when the younger citizens have to stay out of the shops and pharmacies. People are allowed to go out for a walk and jog but only 2 people can walk together and everybody has to keep 1,5 meters distance from each other. Police and military patrol officers fine those who are breaking these rules. Pharmacies and some shops allow limited number of costumers in the market place at the same time. Masks and disinfectants are very hard to buy, most sources are selling them very expensive. Many civilians are preparing masks for themselves and sending them to the medical workers. The citizens are constantly reminded to stay home and do social distancing moreover numerous green lines can be called to get information about the coronavirus.

As in every country suffering from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the effects on Hungary’s economy and medical system are clearly visible. The Hungarian medical system is broken and it is not prepared for the outbreak of a pandemic at all. The government cannot provide even the basic medical equipment for the medical staff. There is a lack of doctors in Hungary and 1/3rd of the general practitioner doctors are over 65 years old, therefore they are temporarily removed from their praxis for their safety. The 2/3rd that is left works till exhaustion with their medical staff. Medical workers are the most exposed to the virus, yet their protective equipment is lacking most of the time resulting in many cases where nurses and doctors catch the virus

The Hungarian economy is also suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many people lost their jobs or has been sent on unpaid “vacation” for the useable future however, there are some market segments that could adapt to the new situations. There are companies that are panicking and getting rid of their workforce and there are many who do their best to help their employees to keep their job making sure that they receive an income. Several small businesses are forced to close having no choice. Many people leave their original job mostly from the catering and restaurant industry and work as delivery personnel or filling up shelves in supermarkets. Most people don’t have money saved, they are relying on their monthly paycheck and they don’t know how will they eat next month.

As a relief, banks stop requesting debt payoffs until the end of year and landlords are asked to temporarily reduce the rents.

All in all, the Hungarian people are optimistic, and despite the dark future that medical professionals are predicting, for now the country managed to “flatten the curve”. The civil cooperation in Hungary is outstanding and everybody is looking forward to continue on with their lives.
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