Hungarian PM justifies new restrictions

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has justified the newly-implemented stricter regulations to flatten the curve of the third wave of the pandemic, as the country’s total Covid-19 caseload topped 450,000.

“Now we have to lock down so that we can reopen at Easter,” Orban told public radio MR1 on Friday.

“It is certain that we have now turned to the finish line with this two-week lockdown, we are now in the final stage of the war waged against the virus, we are closing up onto the finish line,” he added.

On Thursday, the Hungarian government presented a set of stricter rules in order to combat the third wave, as infections reached levels unseen since November 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

These included a general lockdown from March 8 to 22, including the shutdown of kindergartens and primary schools, albeit nurseries will remain open.

Grocery and tobacco stores, pharmacies, drugstores and gas stations will be allowed to stay open for business, as well as units for private health care.

Gyms will also be closed for two weeks. Training and matches of certified athletes could only be organised behind closed gates.

Border controls will also be beefed up, but transit and freight traffic will not be restricted.

“We had no choice but to lock down, because epidemiologists said a tragedy would be imminent if we did not act,” Orban underlined.

The Prime Minister also said that due to the International Women’s day which falls on March 8, florists and flower-shops will be authorised to remain open on that day.

The Hungarian government is boosting its vaccination program with Russian and Chinese vaccines, as the third wave of the pandemic hit the country.

Hungarians now have access to vaccines from Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinopharm.

Being the first European Union member state to buy and authorise the use of Chinese vaccines, Hungary started to administer the Sinopharm vaccine on February 24.

The country on Friday registered 6,369 new Covid-19 cases in a 24-hour span, raising the national total to 452,547, according to official data.

In the past 24 hours, 143 people died from the disease, taking the toll to 15,619 in the country, while 331,557 have recovered.

Currently, 6,867 patients are being treated in hospitals, including 677 on ventilators.

As of Friday, 862,953 people have received at least the first shot of a vaccine, while 279,727 had two jabs.