The pace of infections is accelerating swiftly in Hungary as the fourth wave of the epidemic is gaining strength in the country. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the endemic will peak in November with tens of thousands of new cases daily.
Hungary is entering the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic with lax regulations. Neighboring countries like Romania are seeing an alarming jump in the number of new infections and authorities are re-introducing restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. Meanwhile in Hungary, the government has not announced new restrictive measures in recent months after lifting most of the restrictions on May 21. Authorities announced that the bulk of restrictions would be phased out upon reaching five million vaccinations. Further restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing, were lifted as well after 5.5 million vaccinations were reached in early summer. Currently, official communication is focused on encouraging Hungarians to get inoculated.
Since the first outbreak, 826,636 infections have been registered in Hungary and the virus has claimed 30,259 lives. So far, 5.9 million Hungarians have received their first jab and 5.7 million have been fully vaccinated. Some 854,000 people have received a third vaccine.
Currently, there are nearly as many Hungarians with SARS-CoV-2 treated in hospital as a year ago but more of them are in severe/critical condition than in October 2020. While the 7-day rolling average of new coronavirus infections is almost half of that registered a year ago, the number of total deaths since August 1 is only 13% lower. The 3-day average test positivity rate jumped to over 4.85%, dangerously close to the 5.0% threshold set by the World Health Organization.
Even more worrying is the fact that 114% more of patients hospitalized with coronavirus infections need mechanical ventilation now than a year ago.
Peak predicted for November
The fourth wave of the epidemic is set to peak in Hungary at the end of November, according to a forecast published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). According to the research institute based in Seattle, the daily number of infections may reach a staggering 25,000 by then. The total number of casualties caused by the pandemic may rise to more than 36,000 by January next year.
Should the current trend continue, the highest daily death toll will be between close to 160 in mid-December, the IHME report on Hungary said. Under a worse case scenario, the peak of the fourth wave would occur right before Christmas and the number of fatalities could be as high as 230-231 a day. At the peak of the epidemic in early December, 8,476 of Hungary’s hospital beds may be occupied by coronavirus patients, tying up 3,328 intensive care beds. Should a worst-case scenario materialize, the fourth wave will peak with a daily number of new infections of around 36,000.
If the mandatory wearing of masks in enclosed and spaces and on the street were to be reintroduced, the daily rate of infections would be around 1,200 cases, leading to a flattening of the curve of the epidemic curve. Experts at IHME expects the vaccination coverage rate of the Hungarian population to peak at 61%.
Even though the effectiveness of such statistical forecasts is limited, the epidemic curves predicted by IHME so far have proved rather accurate. In their analysis published in October 2020, their projection for the daily number of fatalities proved correct but their estimate for the peak period was lower than the actual numbers.
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