Minister Kásler: ‘My Intuition is That Second Wave Will Peak Around Late December’

In an interview with the Hungarian pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, Miklós Kásler, Minister of the Ministry of Human Resources, spoke about the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, the expected increase in the number of cases in the upcoming weeks, the probable date of the peak of the epidemic in the country, and the expected effects of the stricter epidemiological restrictions introduced last week.

The Minister of Human Resources said that “the primary goal now is to reduce the pressure on the healthcare system until the vaccine is available,” adding that in his view, the government had taken all the necessary steps. According to Kásler, during the national consultation on the epidemic response, people expressed the need to keep the economy running in addition to saving lives, and the government has taken appropriate measures. He said that although the epidemic was successfully managed by the government in the spring and the epidemic curve flattened by the end of July, the virus was brought into the country again after the holidays abroad. He noted that people’s discipline had eased, so stricter measures had to be introduced. However, he also emphasized that the first experiences with compliance with the new restrictions were positive.

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Talking about the expected peak of the epidemic, Kásler said that the “nature of the pandemic has changed so we can’t think for longer than 2-3 weeks.” Therefore, the date of the peak could not be determined responsibly, but “if you are curious about my intuition – which exists in medicine – then I can say that it can be expected around the end of December and January, if we can now enforce the restrictions.” He added that however, “we can responsibly say that the number of people infected will increase significantly until around the 6th to 10th of December, according to current calculations. A total of 26-28,000 hospital beds and about 4,500 intensive beds may be needed.”

In the minister’s view, this can be provided by Hungarian healthcare during this period. Kásler added that the government has so far designated 77 hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, and up to 40 percent of all state-funded beds. He added that this should be enough preparation to receive patients, while 7 percent of all beds should be prepared for intensive care, where ventilation should be provided if necessary for coronavirus patients.

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Kásler added that “within 3-4 weeks of the new restrictions, we expect the currently steep increase in the number of infections to slow down, then stagnate after a certain level, and then begin to decline, as it did in the spring.” He added that at the moment, “the primary goal is to reduce the pressure on the healthcare system until the vaccine is available. There has been encouraging news in this regard in recent days, but it should be emphasized that there is still no registered vaccination.”

Nevertheless,  the minister also emphasized that there is a high probability that the production and distribution of a surely effective vaccine, one that has no complications, could begin in the foreseeable future. He added that “until these conditions are met, we will certainly not use vaccines in Hungary.”

featured photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI

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