COVID-19: New cases drop, hospitalisation, ventilation stats worsen in Hungary

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The number of coronavirus patients in hospital and on ventilator has risen both in daily and in weekly terms on Thursday, according to the Friday morning report by koronavirus.gov.hu. The number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases shows a decline over Wednesday and last Thursday too, but it will take some time before the improvement starts to show in hospitalisation, ventilation and mortality data.
kórház koronavírus covid-19

What you find in this article besides the latest daily COVID-19 statistics is their comparison with the same readings a year ago, positivity rate charts, the evolution of key (hospitalisation, ventilation) figures, and a summary (graphs) of Covid fatalities per month and their accumulation, also in an annual comparison.

Once again we complemented our usual table comparing the weekly changes of key 7-day average data with a chart that shows the evolution of said changes from the start of the year both in 2022 and in 2021.

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As you can see on the chart below, the two pandemic waves are extremely different when we compare the daily week-on-week changes in the number of Covid patients in hospital and on ventilator. The ever higher rate at which hospitalisations rise from one week to another has been coupled with a diminishing improvement in ventilation numbers since 28 January.

The slackening decrease in the number of ventilated Covid patients started a few days earlier in 2021 than this year, but the weekly change in the number of hospitalised coronavirus patients never showed an increase even though the drop did start to moderate on 26 January 2021.

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Highlights of of today's data release:

  • new cases -9% d/d, -8% w/w;
  • 7-day average of new cases -1.3% d/d, +1.5% w/w;
  • Covid patients in hospital +137 (+3%) d/d, +1,125 (+32.5%) w/w;
  • Covid patients on ventilator +3% d/d, +16% w/w;
  • Covid deaths +17 (+16%) d/d, +27 (+35%) w/w;
  • Short-term positivity rates (unreliable) started to ease, long-term rates keep going up.
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The good news is that the 7-d / 28-day average and its 7-day average dropped further.

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Hospitalisations, Covid patients on ventilator

The daily and the three-day averages also show a rise in hospitalisations and the number of Covid patients needing mechanical ventilation.

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As regards the number of ventilated patients per those in hospital, the 7-day average has been dropping since end-December (13.5%) and is currently as low as 5.4%.

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We happy, Vincent?

There are a couple of silver linings here. Despite the inferior testing practices of Hungarian authorities (these are the numbers we have to work with, folks), the drop in the number of new cases is definitely good news. Look at the downturn at the top of the green curve on the left-hand chart below.

While it is promising, it will take some time before hospitalisation, ventilation, and death figures start reflecting what possibly is the peak or imminent peak in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

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Secondly, the day-on-day change of the 7-day average of the number of hospitalised Covid patients has dropped (see orange line on the graph below). For now we should not read too much into this, but it is definitely a good sign.

Thirdly, studies keep coming up with the same result: the Omicron variant of coronavirus generally (!) causes less severe disease than Delta. (They also stress that vaccination remains crucial to prevent not only infection, but also hospitalisation and death.)

Are there any bad news? Actually, there are. There are signs that the worst is not over, such as the blue line on the graph below. While the number of new cases might have peaked, it will take time for hospital, ventilation and death figures to reflect the improvement (it will happen in that order).

How to read this chart?
On the two 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.

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.

The left-hand chart shows what happened a year ago. The time series spans between 1 Nov 2020 and 28 Feb 2021, and the same dates in 2021 and 2022 are indicated by the red ovals. The black oval shows when the turnaround this year occurred.

What the curves tell us is that (based on 7-day averages), the decline in the number of active cases continues at a diminishing rate, while the number of hospitalisations is rising at an accelerating rate (see silver lining remark above), and the number of Covid patients on ventilator has been improving to an ever smaller extent. Actually, the improvement has not just halted, but there is an accelerating rise in the number of Covid patients needing mechanical ventilation.

In view of the scientific findings that Omicron appears to be less severe than Delta, we are anxious to see where this is headed, and, more importantly, when this process will turn around. Needless to say, we need data for a couple of days more to determine that, but for now things are not looking up. Chances are that the small downturn in the orange curve is the beginning of a descent, in which case the blue line should also reverse at some point (within a week or so) .

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How deadly are these waves?

The charts below show how Covid deaths turned out since August 2021. These include not only the daily readings, but also the accumulation of fatailities within the month, compared with the same month a year earlier.

The aggregate figure of Covid deaths between 1 August and 31 January is slightly lower in 2021/22 (11,444) than in 2020/21 (11,981). August and November stand out, as the total number of Covid deaths in those months were higher in 2021 than in 2020, unlike in the others.

Note that excess mortality statistics (released by the Central Statistical Office, KSH) paint a more accurate picture of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic than the numbers published by the coronavirus task force, but due to constant revisions the final (or close to final) mortality data will not be available for the period under review at least until late March.

Here we go.

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Cover photo: Getty Images

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