Hungary to reopen schools when 2.5 million people are inoculated – cabinet minister

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Once the number of people vaccinated has reached 2.5 million, kindergartens as well as primary and secondary schools will reopen within a week, cabinet minister Gergely Gulyás said on Thursday at a press briefing after the weekly government meeting. Hungary has a population of just under 10 million.

Regarding the vaccination of teachers, Gulyás said that vaccination is still voluntary, so teachers, kindergarten teachers and nursery staff are asked to register for the coronavirus vaccine. He added that the healthcare system is prepared to provide care for everyone — not only in terms of equipment but also in terms of personnel — even if cases spike more.

He noted that there would be an online EU summit on epidemic management, as the spread of the coronavirus in most EU states is on a strong upward trend. He said that on Wednesday, more people per million were registered as new coronavirus cases in Poland, the Czech Republic and Estonia than in Hungary. He said that the third wave is not over, and the number of infections continues to grow, adding that while this is true for the EU as a whole, the situation in Hungary is “also bad.”

Detailing the daily numbers, he repeated that the situation was serious, but the healthcare system is able to provide the capacity needed for the increased number of patients. He thanked the doctors and nurses doing this difficult work. He said 1,678 beds with ventilators are available, while the total available bed capacity in hospitals for coronavirus patients is 10,441. Gulyás also indicated that the government has plans to expand capacity if necessary.

The cabinet minister further stated that the government is doing everything it can to ensure that the number of on-duty personnel is “sufficient”: Any doctor can be called for coronavirus duty, and residents and medics are also being involved. He stressed there is only one way to combat the epidemic: vaccination. According to Gulyás, 650,000 senior citizens had not registered for the vaccination, and the chief medical officer had sent each a letter asking them to do so.

The minister said the incidence of illnesses in nursing homes, where vaccinations were given in the first round, has fallen below 1 percent. This shows that if the oldest, the most vulnerable, are vaccinated, the risk of catching the infection is minimized, he added. He also said there was a lot of uncertainty about the progress of vaccinations, with EU vaccine shipments arriving with extreme irregularity.

More vaccines will be available in April than ever before, thanks to continued supplies from both China and Russia, he said. Gulyás added that hopefully, the current EU summit will see to speeding up vaccine shipments from the European Union that have been delayed.

Gulyás did mention that the coronavirus operational group may decide on Friday if stores can reopen. As we reported recently, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry proposed a regulation that would apply to all stores on the basis of the same principle: one customer per 10 square meters.

Title image: Inoculation in Hungary (MTI)

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