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Coronavirus: May Hungary able to escape the horrible dangers?

As the World Health Organisation has declared Europe as the new epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, Hungarians are trying to cope with the new reality. Currently, one person died and some people are receiving treatment, close to 100+ are in hospital quarantine and several hundred citizens returning from Italy have been ordered to self-quarantine at home.

The Government canceled 15 March National Day celebrations and decided about closing all universities, schools, libraries, museums, and theatres. With 3 months of the school year still left, all levels of education are trying to switch to digital classes. As the outbreak is expected to peak at the end of June, it is not clear what will happen with high school graduation and university entrance exams.

Streets were deserted over the weekend in the capital, Budapest. Despite the sunny spring weather, very few people went for a walk on Margaret Island, one of the capital’s largest parks. Tourists have also disappeared almost completely after most airlines have canceled the majority of their European flights. Hungary has banned entry by citizens from countries with a high number of cases.

There is no atmosphere of panic, but non-perishable and hygiene products have disappeared from the shelves of shops, despite assurances by the Government, that no food or other shortages are expected. Pharmacies have also recorded high demand for all kinds of drugs people hope may help them in case they get sick. Face masks are almost impossible to find and hand-sanitizer gels disappear within minutes. Nonetheless, very few people wear face masks in the streets, and they are usually watched with suspicion by other people. There is a general sense of fear and uncertainty, people are anxious, keeping a distance from each other.

The next 1-2 weeks will be crucial for determining the direction of events. Experts are saying that so far there are no focal points, just isolated cases in the country.

The Government has taken all steps to avoid panic, calling on citizens to behave responsibly and respect the new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is considered to be the only effective way.

Nonetheless, the Government is preparing new hospital facilities, including a container hospital for a less positive scenario. Healthcare workers have complained about the lack of proper protective gear and the general shortage of personnel in this field, warning that a major increase in patient numbers may have devastating consequences.

Some health experts also criticized the government for directly applying the WHO protocol, instead of seeking the expertise of local virologists to determine the exact nature of the local situation. The economic impact of the crisis is not even considered at the moment.

Writer:  Ildikó B. Rozsonits, Activist & Interpreters, Budapest, Hungary. 

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