Hungary expected to reopen restaurant terraces as COVID shots accelerate

Family doctor Csaba Denes gives a dose of the Sinopharm coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a patient, in Budapest, Hungary

Hungary is expected to reopen restaurant terraces and shorten a night-time curfew from Saturday as the vaccination campaign allows for a further reopening of the economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyas told a briefing that by Friday, 3.5 million Hungarians could be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, which could rise to 4 million, or around 40% of the population, by early next week.

Gulyas said that could allow a further easing of coronavirus curbs, which will be laid out by Orban in coming days.

Hungary has been at the forefront of the European Union’s inoculation drive, while its death rates have also been among the highest in the world as the third wave of the pandemic hit Central Europe especially hard.

Hungarian hospitals are still under heavy strain even though the third wave has peaked and infections are slowly declining.

Nationalist Orban, who faces an election in 2022, is trying to reopen the economy as fast as possible in order to avoid another shock after a 5% recession last year.

Gulyas said Hungary will receive a further 1 million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine next week, and also further shipments of Russian Sputnik V and Pfizer shots.

Hungary started to reopen its economy earlier this month by reopening shops. However, hotels can still only take business visitors, and restaurants have been open just for takeout or delivery. Most schools are still in remote learning.

Hungary, with a population around 10 million, has so far recorded 760,967 COVID-19 infections and 26,001 deaths. Some 7,500 patients are currently in hospitals, 876 of them still on ventilators.

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