Hungary PM blames British Covid-19 variant for rise in cases

BUDAPEST – Coronavirus infections have started to rise again in Hungary, probably due to the spread of the variant of the disease first detected in Britain, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday (Feb 12).

However, Mr Orban said there was no need for further lockdown to curb the spread, as a planned acceleration of inoculations with Russian and Chinese vaccines could offset the rise in cases in coming weeks.

“If we start inoculations with the Chinese vaccine as well, by Easter we will be able to vaccinate all the (more than 2 million) people who have registered for vaccines,” Mr Orban said.

Hungary expects to receive 500,000 doses of Chinese firm Sinopharm’s vaccine next week and plans to start administering it soon, becoming the first EU country to use it.

This week Hungary became the first European Union member to administer Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, after its regulator granted the shot emergency use approval rather than waiting for a green light from the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Hungarian drug regulator has also granted approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine, which had been used in neighbouring Serbia.

Mr Orban said the aim was to have a sufficient number of people receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, who would then receive a document proving their immunity, along with those who have recovered from the infection.

He flagged the possibility of attaching special rights to this document, allowing people to visit restaurants and hotels, which he said would also help the economy recover. Restaurants have been closed except for takeaway meals since November and there is a 1900 GMT night curfew in place.

Just over 300,000 Hungarians – healthcare workers and the most vulnerable among the elderly – have so far received at least one shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Hungary also started using the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine this week.

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