Hungary PM expects spike in COVID hospitalisations as infections spread

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's prime minister said on Friday that up to 15,000-20,000 people could enter hospital as coronavirus infections surge, up from just over 6,800 now, which will put a big strain on the healthcare system in the coming weeks.

Viktor Orban, whose government announced tough new lockdown measures on Thursday to curb the third wave of the pandemic, told state radio that "there will be enough (hospital) beds and ventilators."

He said the lockdown, which includes closing all shops except foodstores and pharmacies from Monday until March 22, suspending all services except private healthcare and closing primary schools was needed to prevent a "tragedy".

"We will see pressure rising on hospitals," he told state radio.

He said with a vaccination campaign accelerating, by early April around 2.4 people could have had at least one shot of a COVID vaccine, rising to about 4.7 million by early May.

Since mid-November, Hungary has had a night-time curfew, hotels and restaurants have been closed, and remote learning has been in place in all secondary schools.

Last week it became the first European Union country to start inoculating people with China's Sinopharm vaccine after rolling out Russia's Sputnik V vaccine although neither has been granted approval for emergency use by the bloc.

The Russian and Chinese shots are being administered along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and shots developed by U.S. company Moderna and AstraZeneca, all of which have received the EU green light.

As of Friday, over 862,000 people in Hungary, which has close to 10 million people, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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