BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s government will require employees at state institutions to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a jump in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff told a briefing on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyas also said that private company employers will also be empowered to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees if they believe that is necessary and mask wearing will be mandatory on public transport from November 1.
Hungary has seen a steady increase in infections over the past weeks. On Thursday, it reported 4,039 new coronavirus infections, with daily new cases doubling from last week.
Hungary, a country of 10 million, has reported 30,692 deaths since the start of the pandemic. More than 5.72 million people have been fully vaccinated against the virus so far, and more than 1.16 million have received a third, booster shot.
“We expect new infections to jump, and the number of people treated in hospital will also rise although to a lesser extent…but we will have fewer people needing ventilators and dying (than during the previous wave of the pandemic),” Gulyas said.
Visiting healthcare institutions and social institutions will be banned.
He urged more Hungarians to take up vaccines saying that the country’s inoculation rate was relatively high in Central Eastern Europe — which has the European Union’s lowest vaccination rates — but was still below the EU’s average.
“We can only curb the fourth wave … if more people take up the vaccines. We have plenty of vaccines,” he added.
Neighbouring Romania is at the forefront of the fresh wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the region, with one of the world’s highest mortality rates and hospitals struggling to cope.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by David Goodman and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)