‘The real test is yet to come’ on Covid-19, PM Orban says as Hungary sees biggest daily rise in cases

10 Apr, 2020 11:35 / Updated 4 years ago

Hungary is bracing for a big surge in Covid-19 cases, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban warning that the “real test” was imminent as the country saw its biggest daily jump in confirmed infections.

Speaking on public radio on Friday, Orban said that, while the crisis seems to be “peaking” in some other countries and there is “light at the end of the tunnel” in those places, that was not yet the case for Hungary.

"We have won time, we have been defending ourselves well, but the real test is yet to come.”

Orban said his country would need to increase its stock of ventilators and intensive care beds to 8,000 by the time the crisis peaks, while there would only be around 2,000 available in “normal times.”

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Official data showed that confirmed cases of the Covid-19 infection jumped by 210 on Friday to reach 1,190 — the country’s biggest leap in cases so far. There have been 77 deaths due to the virus, it said.

The government data showed that nearly 50 percent of confirmed cases are in the capital, Budapest. Of the 210 new cases reported on Friday, 151 were in a home for the elderly, where seven people have died. The number of cases there may rise again, as tests on residents are still being carried out.

Orban also said it was possible that around one fifth of hospital workers could contract the virus — a situation similar to the one seen in other countries. Medical students are currently being trained to help assist in ICU wards, he said.

A national lockdown was extended indefinitely on Thursday ahead of the Easter holiday weekend in an effort to curb the spread of the infection.

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Orban butted heads with top EU officials over his response to the crisis after he secured open-ended emergency powers in parliament to rule by decree during the outbreak.

The move prompted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to warn that emergency measures adopted in Europe must not be "at the expense of our fundamental principles and values" and must not last "indefinitely." German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas branded the move to rule by decree "unacceptable" and suggested there could be "financial" repercussions for Orban. Meanwhile, former chief of the European Council Donald Tusk urged the European People's Party (EPP) grouping to expel Fidesz from its ranks over its response to the coronavirus crisis.

It's hardly the first time Orban has weathered a spat with the EU, however. Fidesz was already suspended from the EPP over anti-immigration policies and he has frequently criticized EU institutions and disregarded reprimands from Brussels.

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