Hungary extends coronavirus curbs, night curfew until Feb. 1

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a news conference

Hungary will extend existing restrictions, including a nighttime curfew, until Feb. 1 to curb the spread of novel coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

Orban also said digital learning in secondary schools would continue. Primary schools opened this week.

Since Nov. 11, all secondary schools have been closed as have hotels and restaurants except for takeaway meals, a 1900 GMT curfew has been in place, and all gatherings have been banned as a second wave of the pandemic hit the country.

Orban said Hungary had received 80,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine but that was not enough.

“Existing restrictions will be extended until Feb. 1,” Orban said, adding that more than 42,000 healthcare workers had received the vaccine.

Nationalist Orban, who faces the biggest challenge of his decade-long rule with the pandemic and the economic recession it has caused, said an economic rebound this year would depend on how fast Hungary could vaccinate its people.

He said if the government only relied on vaccines made in Western countries, it would take several more months.

He criticised the European Union’s procurement of vaccines, and praised Britain, which went its own way.

“The British, instead of letting Brussels do it, negotiated themselves and are in a much better state now,” Orban said.

He said “vaccine misery” also showed that EU member states should be dealing with many more issues on a national basis, rather than letting Brussels act on their behalf.

Hungary has participated in Russia’s testing efforts and was an early recipient of small batches of its Sputnik V vaccine and is also in talks with China and Israel about vaccines.

As of Thursday, Hungary had reported 334,836 novel coronavirus cases and 10,325 deaths. More than 5,000 people are in hospital, down from earlier peaks but the healthcare system is still under strain.

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