From our correspondent
Each morning the chief doctor Cecilia Müller gives the figures of the day before: Friday, 275 dead; Saturday, 253; Sunday, 220; Monday, 189… Prime Minister Viktor Orban had demanded in September that his management of the epidemic be judged on the number of deaths. Evil took him. Spared last spring, Hungary has since been swept away by a first “Wave” epidemic in the fall, then currently by a second, carried by the variant “English”.
So here he is at the head of a country which is experiencing, at the end of March, the highest death rate in the world and which ranks thirde rank of the countries most bereaved by the pandemic, in proportion to its population, behind the Czech Republic and Belgium (20,000 deaths for 9.7 million inhabitants). “ The situation is serious “, conceded the Minister of Chancellery, Gergely Gulyas, at the forefront of government communication. “ But the claims that point to a higher mortality do not correspond to the facts ”, However, he estimated, arguing that in Hungary, deaths linked to Covid-19 are more widely counted than in other European countries.
Hungary faces a serious shortage of doctors and nurses, especially those qualified for intensive care. According to the rector of the Budapest Medical University, Hungary has the capacity to treat, under good conditions, around a thousand patients in its intensive care units. How many are there today? The only data available, 1,500 are currently under respiratory assistance.
This shortage is ignored by the authorities who maintain a smokescreen by highlighting the large number of beds and artificial respiration devices. Health reserves “Don’t look too bad”, reassured Viktor Orbán, Friday March 26 in the morning. No question for him to admit the slightest vulnerability. Rather send help than ask other countries, as the Czech and Slovak neighbors had to do, he replied in an interview.
The government ensured that no images reached the public eye. Journalists are kept away from hospitals, which are under military administration. Only a few anonymous testimonies, describing the chaos that reigns in certain hospitals, have made their way to the independent press.
Power can count on the dominant public and pro-government media to maintain a smokescreen. They are looking elsewhere, towards the vaccination campaign which, light in this gloomy picture, is being carried out with full speed and making their headlines every day. On Sunday March 28, Hungary took the lead in the vaccination race in the European Union.
For Viktor Orban, it is a question of proving the superiority of his strategy based on the importation of vaccines not approved by the European Union, Russian and Chinese. It is above all a lifeline for him who will seek a fifth term in a year. “ Difficult days await us, but Hungary will precede all the other countries of the European Union to make our lives free again ”, he promised, while the third “Wave” rises in the west of the continent.