People were lining up for COVID-19 shots outside Budapest’s main hospitals on Monday as Hungary for the first time offered vaccinations without prior registration amid a surge in new infections.
Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for half of global cases and deaths, and protests turned violent in the Netherlands and Belgium over the weekend over new curbs on movement.
Austria entered its fourth national lockdown on Monday after tens of thousands marched against new restrictions. Germany is debating making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory.
Hungary reported a record high tally of 11,289 new cases on Friday and on Monday reported 27,209 new cases for Friday to Sunday and 392 deaths.
Hungary, with a population of 10 million, has reported 33,172 coronavirus deaths in total.
Despite people lining up for shots, Hungary’s vaccination rate lags the EU average, with about 5.8 million people having had the two shots.
The government imposed mandatory mask wearing in closed spaces last week and said it would make COVID shots mandatory for all healthcare workers.
But these fall short of the strict measures that the Hungarian Medical Chamber called for on Wednesday.
Janos Szlavik, of Budapest’s main COVID-19 hospital, said late on Sunday on commercial television ATV that further measures could soon be necessary to curb infections.
He was cited as saying that 80%-90% of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care were unvaccinated, and the intensive care unit in his hospital was full.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces a close election in April, is walking a tightrope between stricter and unpopular measures to tame the COVID-19 surge and retain a strong economic recovery.