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Healthcare

UPDATE 1-Hungary daily coronavirus cases hit 7,269 as lockdown looms

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BUDAPEST, March 6 (Reuters) - Hungary, which is imposing tough new lockdown measures to curb a spike in COVID-19 infections, reported a record daily high of 7,269 cases on Saturday, a jump of 14% from Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government on Thursday closed all schools and most shops as the central European country of 10 million grapples with some of the highest infection and death rates in the world.

Orban said on Friday he expected hospitalisations to rise to 15,000-20,000, adding that the country’s health care system should be able to cope without external help. 7,250 people were hospitalised on Saturday, with 750 on ventilators.

His government has tried to avoid a lockdown at all cost to prevent a repeat of the deep recession that followed a spring 2020 clampdown. Hungary’s economy dropped by 5.1% last year after a double-digit fall in the second quarter.

The latest lockdown, which extends a night-time curfew and the closure of secondary schools, will last from March 8 to March 22, but schools will stay closed at least until April 7.

Hungary is rolling out an ambitious vaccination campaign, becoming the first European Union country to use both Chinese and Russian vaccines as well as Western drugs.

It has inoculated at the highest pace in the EU in the past week, according to Our World In Data.

As of Saturday, 950,000 Hungarians had received at least the first dose of a vaccine, and 300,000 people have been fully inoculated, the government said.

Orban said around 2.4 million people could have had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by early April, rising to about 4.7 million by early May.

The government on Friday said that a massive weekend vaccine campaign to distribute a large shipment of AstraZeneca shots would be held in the second half of next week after a technical glitch. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alexander Smith)

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