Hungary Imposes Tough Virus Curbs in Orban U-Turn

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced sweeping measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, in a policy reversal triggered by new cases threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

The government will ban public gatherings, expand a curfew to between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., shut restaurants except for take-away and switch secondary schools and universities to distance learning, Orban said on Monday in a Facebook post. Gyms, theaters and museums will close and sports events must be held in empty stadiums, he said. The measures will be in effect from Wednesday for at least 30 days.

Hungary reported record coronavirus cases and deaths over the weekend, and the country has logged the third-highest number of deaths per capita in the European Union. The government estimates the number of patients requiring intensive-care will grow exponentially in the next month to more than double the 2,000 patients doctors have said they are prepared to handle, raising the prospect of sharply rising fatalities.

“If the number of infected continue to grow like this, our doctors and nurses, that is to say our hospitals, won’t be able to handle the burden,” Orban said.

The new measures trail many of Hungary’s European Union peers, which took action earlier to try to rein in the pandemic. The Chamber of Doctors last month called on the government to enforce stricter steps to avert a “humanitarian and health catastrophe.”

Orban had sought to avoid more drastic measures to prevent further damaging the economy after a partial lockdown earlier this year and limited government stimulus contributed to one of the deepest recessions in the EU’s eastern wing.

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