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28th May 2022

Central Europe struggles with new Covid-19 wave

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Hungary reported 10,265 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday (17 November), its highest daily tally since the end of March, the government said .

The government also said that 178 people died in the previous 24 hours, and 5,852 people are in hospital, with 565 patients on ventilators.

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  • In central Europe vaccine uptake has been lagging behind the rest of the bloc (Photo: ECDC)

The daily infection cases are getting close to the peak of 11,265 reached during the third wave of the pandemic.

The daily average deaths in the past week are now higher than then weekly average the same time last year, when restrictions were in place.

However, hardly any restrictions are currently in place in Hungary, where prime minister Viktor Orbán is facing elections next April, while the vaccination rate is below the EU average of 66 percent for the full vaccination.

Hungary's Medical Chamber on Wednesday called for a ban on mass events and mandatory mask-wearing in closed spaces.

"We must slow down the increase in the number of patients, a flooding of hospitals (with Covid-19 patients) or many families will have a very sad Christmas," they said.

On Tuesday, Hungary's government said it was monitoring cases, and "if necessary will take further measures", Reuters reported. Hungarian citizens had been encouraged to take up third, booster, Covid-19 shots.

A new wave of Covid-19 infections has been sweeping through central Europe where the vaccination rate is generally below the EU average.

Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have tightened rules to curb infections.

According to Eurostat data, more than 50 percent extra people died in Bulgaria than usual during September, making the EU's least-vaccinated country the hardest-hit during the fourth wave of the coronavirus.

The report published on Tuesday on so-called excessive mortality rate - comparing deaths with pre-pandemic levels - showed that Lithuania, Greece and Romania have excess mortalities rates of over 30 percent.

The share of people fully vaccinated in Bulgaria is 24 percent, followed by Romania with 36 percent, Slovakia with 43 percent, Croatia with 46 percent, Poland 53 percent, Slovenia 54.5 percent, the Czech Republic with 58 percent.

Lower levels of trust in governments, and the effects of disinformation could be contributing to the lower rates of vaccination.

Experts argued that central Europeans may be more sceptical as a result of decades of communist rule that eroded public trust in state institutions.

Making matters worse, their underdeveloped healthcare systems remained underfunded.

In some countries, like Slovakia, vaccine scepticism has been also fed by politicians, where former prime minister Robert Fico said he would not get vaccinated.

Excess deaths across the EU rose to 12 percent percent in September, according to Eurostat, climbing sharply over the late summer from a low of five percent in July.

The EU registered a peak in excess deaths in April 2021 (with 20 percent) and another in November 2020 (40 percent), making those the deadliest months of the pandemic.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that "countries with lower vaccination uptake continue to be the most severely affected" by the resurgence of the coronavirus.

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