Hungary mulls tightening of lockdown measures as infections rise - PM Orban

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, February 15, 2021. Szilard Koszticsak/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary could consider tightening some lockdown restrictions as coronavirus infections are expected to rise "drastically" in the next two weeks, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

Orban also said all the 2.5 million to 2.6 million Hungarians who have registered for COVID-19 vaccinations so far would receive at least one dose by Easter, in early April.

Orban said he hoped to get vaccinated with a shot developed by China's Sinopharm early next week.

"We need to radically limit travels outside Europe," Orban said, including business travel.

Orban flagged "very strict travel rules" to be worked out, and depending on the pace of new infections in coming days he said a tightening of current restrictions could become necessary.

The government has extended a partial lockdown until March 15. All secondary schools have been closed since Nov. 11, as have hotels and restaurants except for takeaway meals, a 1900 GMT curfew has been in place and all gatherings have been banned.

Hungary, with a population of around 10 million, has reported 414,514 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 14,672 deaths. The daily tally of new infections jumped to 4,385 on Thursday, the highest this year.

So far, just over half a million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Hungary on Wednesday became the first European Union country to start inoculating people with Sinopharm shots, after rolling out Russia's Sputnik V as part of its vaccination campaign. The Chinese and Russian vaccines have not been granted regulatory approval in the EU.

These shots are now being administered along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and shots developed by U.S. company Moderna and AstraZeneca.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast.)

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