Hungary is suffering a devastating surge in COVID-19 deaths, despite the fact it has the highest vaccination rate in the European Union.
It set a new daily death record on Wednesday with 302 fatalities, and currently has the highest weekly death rate per one million inhabitants in the world.
The country is in its fourth week of a new round of lockdown measures as the government tried to get hospitalisations and deaths under control
The deaths come in spite of its ambitious vaccination programme that is leading the way in the EU, with the country boosting its supplies with China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines.
More than 2 million jabs have been administered as of Tuesday, inoculating more than 20% of the population.
But even with the relative success so far of its vaccination campaign, hospitals are under unprecedented strain – as a proportion of the population, more COVID patients are being treated in hospitals in Hungary than in any other EU country except for Bulgaria.
Media accuses government of ‘obstruction’
Journalists in Hungary published an open letter on Wednesday demanding access to the overburdened hospitals in order to report what is happening, as they denounced “obstruction” from the Hungarian government.
“Doctors and nurses are not free to express themselves publicly and the press is not allowed to enter medical units” and vaccination centres, the editors of 28 newspapers and TV stations said.
“The lack of information has serious consequences,” the authors of the letter said. “Because of the lack of reporting on the reality of hospitals, many people still minimise the dangers of the virus and do not take protective measures, which contributes to exacerbating the epidemic.
In their letter, the journalists also call for the organisation of real press conferences, where journalists could ask questions live.
“Hospitals are made for treating patients, not for the cameras,” said government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs. “The staff are doing superhuman tasks. Let them work,” he said in a Facebook post.
Since his return to power in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been regularly accused by the EU and international organisations of undermining the rule of law and independent media in the country.