Hungary crosses 45,000 mark in COVID-19 death toll

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More than 45,000 people have died in Hungary of coronavirus-related diseases since the outbreak in the spring of 2020, according to official government figures. Is it a lot? Of course, it's a devastatingly high figure. Is it a lot in global terms? Yes, Hungary is fourth (or third, if you disregard Bosnia and Herzegovina with a population one third of Hungary's own) in the world in terms of Covid deaths per one million population.
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If you ask where the pandemic is going in Hungary, it's difficult to say, but there are ominous signs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also keeps warning that the end of the pandemic is still a long way off.

What are the red flags in Hungary then?

Well, the decreasing rate of improvement in the number of new cases, hospitalisations and the number of those needing mechanical ventilation. (Note that authorities skip three days of Covid reports and the data published in the first half of the week need to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, the trends are not that murky.)

The following two charts show the changes in 7-day averages to avoid heavy fluctuations caused by the erratic official reports. The top one shows the changes this year, while the one below shows the changes only between 28 February and 20 March.

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Let's see how the 7-day rolling averages of new cases and Covid deaths changed recently. The slight uptick at the end of the green curves is foreboding, but it's too early to say with absolute certainty that we are witnessing a turnaround. The black and green curves on the charts above, however, can already be considered as a stronger signal that the improvement is over and soon we might see worsening stats.

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Here's another chart that may be considered a red flag.

The uptick in the 7-day / 28-day average of the positivity rate and the rise in the 7-day average of this ratio also also warning signs, but the weekend data are distorting.

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As for the trend of Covid deaths (7-day average), it remains ascending, and the 21-day average started to flatten out.

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Comparing the fifth wave with the one a year earlier gives us the following chart for the 20 Aug - 20 March period. As you can see, a significantly higher number of cases (cc. 1 million vs. 566,000), owing to the more transmissible Delta and especially the Omicron variants, resulted in not substantially fewer deaths (15,068 vs. 17,665).

Also note that by 20 March about 6.2 million people received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, 3.83 million three doses and 243,000 four shots, a year ago only about 305,000 people were protected by two doses (14 days after their 2nd jab) on 20 March.

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This is how the daily Covid deaths and their accumulation looked like this year and a year ago between 1 January and 20 March.

Another chart depicting the evolution of Covid fatalities and the number of new cases between 28 August and 20 March. The difference in the number of cases is staggering while the gap between the aggregate number of Covid deaths should be way wider.

And this is how Hungary is ranked in the world in terms of Covid deaths per one million population. (Note that countries with populations smaller than three million have been removed from the list, but that does not put Hungary in a better spot.)

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Hungary's comparison to other countries in Europe (north, CEE or West) also paints a forlorn picture of how it has been managing the pandemic.

Cover photo: Getty Images

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