COVID-19: New daily cases nearly double week on week in Hungary

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Hungarian authorities diagnosed 6,454 people with SARS-CoV-2 infection on Wednesday, almost twice as many (+92%) as a week earlier. Over the past 24 hours, 80 people died of coronavirus-related diseases in Hungary, taking the death toll to 39,679. Hungary is fourth in the world as regards the number of Covid deaths per one million population.
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 Local authorities have performed nearly 27,000 tests (up from 17,800 on Tuesday) and found nearly 6,500 positive samples, which is the highest daily figure since 9 December. The number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases marks a 18% rise over the previous day and a 92% jump from a week ago.

Daily percent positive data are unreliable and so are the short-term averages. Despite the 50% growth in the number of tests, the positivity rate retreated only to 23.92% from 29.67%. The three-day positivity rate is down at 26.91% from 28.24% but is significantly higher than a year ago. In fact, every average of the percent positive is (a lot) higher than on the same day of 2021.

The 3-day / 21-day percent positive dropped to 143.44% from 154.6%, while the 7-day average of this ratio has risen further to 116.21% from 110%, which does not bode well for the future.

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The 7-day rolling average of new COVID-19 is also on the rise. The number of new cases shows a 92% leap in weekly terms, which is most likely the consequence of the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

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How is the situation in hospitals?

In terms of the hospitalisation of coronavirus patients, we are still better off than a year ago, while there are more of them on ventilator than in the base period.

As of Wednesday night, there were 11 fewer (-0.4%) people in hospital with SARS-CoV-2 than late on Tuesday, while their number is down 16% week on week. The number of Covid patients on ventilator, however, was flat at 307 yesterday and shows a 10% w/w drop. There are other indicators, however, that show the situation in hospitals is worsening (see charts below).

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On the charts below the 0% line is important. When the curves are under 0% there’s a decline, when they go over 0% it’s an increase. The changes show that the situation in terms of hospitalisations started to worsen after 20 August.

More importantly, when a value is north of 0% but the curve descends, it means an increase at a slowing rate, rather than a decrease. If the curve is above 0% and ascending, it is an increase at an accelerating rate. When we are under 0% and the curve goes lower, it translates into an accelerating decrease, and when it goes up it marks a decelerating decrease. As you can see, we are witnessing the latter here, and there was a turnaround in the improvement around 27-29 December.

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What do the changes mean?

The chart below shows the number of hospitalised Covid patients as a percentage of active cases and the On ventilator / In hospital ratio.

When a pandemic 'wave' starts, the percentage of hospitalised patients relative to active cases always soars, because there is still a relatively low number of official cases due to inferior testing practices, and because early on most people with positive tests are likely in hospital.

The green curve peaks around 7% in every 'wave' and then the ratio starts to drop as authorities 'find' more and more infections. The reason why this curve starts to descend even though the number of hospitalisations goes up drastically is because the increase in new confirmed COVID-19 cases is even more staggering.

When there's a relative calm, the red curve picks up sharply, because only those Covid patients are left in hospital that are in severe condition. The others either recovered and were discharged or died.

Early in these waves this ratio always rises rapidly (low number of tests, many in severe condition in hospital, a lot of them in ICUs), but then the ratio starts to improve.

There was an anomaly here, namely that this trend was broken in late November 2021. The proportion of those in hospital to active cases starts to drop, but the proportion of Covid patients in intensive care (relative to those in hospital) goes up. This indicates that there are too few people in hospital compared to before, i.e. there are more serious cases. As it is not the course of the disease that has become more severe, this indicates insufficient hospitalisation.

While about one third of the population (3.18 mn people) are inoculated with three doses of COVID-19 vaccines, about 3.5 million people have not received a single shot yet. Also, as the effectiveness of vaccines wanes over time, about three million Hungarians have diminished or no protection against coronavirus infection, even after two jabs.

The cabinet has announced a new vaccination campaign for January where Hungarians may, after on-site registration, ask for their first, second or third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The shots will be administered at vaccination locations between 2 and 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

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Cover photo: Andriy Onufriyenko, Getty Images

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