BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – Hungarian doctors are questioning the government’s decision to lift some of the restrictions on maximum COVID-19 infections and deaths, saying it could lead to an even worse situation in the Central European country.
Shops and services were allowed to reopen on Wednesday after 2.5 million people received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a benchmark set by the government when a gradual reopening could take place. Hungarian officials say the number of vaccines being administered, not the number of infections or deaths, will determine the country’s strategy to lift the blockade.
“Closures can only limit the spread of the virus. “The government decided weeks ago that any reopening measures would depend on the number of vaccines,” Prime Minister Victor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told reporters on Thursday.
The additional restrictions could be lifted within a week, he added, adding that more than 4 million people in Hungary could receive the first dose of the vaccine by the end of the month.
Still, some in the Hungarian medical community criticize reopening as premature, based on arbitrary criteria, as new infections and viral deaths rise.
“They should not measure the severity of the situation (vaccination) by numbers, but by how overcrowded hospitals and intensive care units are,” Dr. Kunets told the Associated Press. “The government has now developed its own standard, which at the moment is not in line with the severity of the epidemic.”
According to Hopkins University, Hungary had the worst death rate in the world in recent weeks at 1 million people, with an outbreak of 22,681 deaths.
The lifting of restrictions on Wednesday, which included extending shopping hours, delaying the start of the overnight curfew by two hours, coincided with a new high of 311 deaths, following last week’s record death toll.
The Hungarian Chamber of Physicians said the decision to lift the restrictions “came too soon”, urging Hungarians to be vigilant and to avoid public spaces, despite the “false sense of security” provided by the economic easing.
Some doctors have argued that using a small number of vaccines to direct reopening is a flawed strategy that could lead to another deadly wave.
“In my opinion, this reopening was an urgent and completely wrong decision,” said Dr. Oltan Komaromi, a doctor in the Budapest capital. “This 2.5 million is a complete surprise to us, as no epidemiological textbook or guide says that vaccinating a quarter of the population has any epidemiological effect.”
Komaromi, who is also the spokesman for the opposition political party, says the government has used political motives to guide its epidemic policy, not scientific guidelines.
“Therefore, the last three or four measures have not had any effect on slowing down or reducing the epidemic. “The curves are rising just as sharply,” Komaromi said. “May God bless the Hungarians so that as few people as possible die (as a result of this policy).”
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