BUDAPEST, April 23 (Reuters) - Hungary will reach a 40% inoculation rate by the middle of next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on Friday, a milestone that would allow resumption of a wide range of activities in the services sector en route to normalcy.
In recent weeks, the central European nation of 10 million has suffered from the world's deadliest coronavirus outbreak, pushing its death rate to the world's highest by Thursday, a COVID-19 database on the website Worldometers.info shows.
Orban, who faces a tight election race in 2022, has struggled to balance pandemic-fighting efforts with growing calls to reopen the economy and avoid a second straight year of deep recession.
"At four million people vaccinated, and I think that will come next Wednesday or Thursday, we will open a wide range of services for those who have vaccination cards," Orban said.
These will include hotels, indoor restaurants, theatres, cinemas, gyms, sports events, baths, swimming pools, ,museums, libraries and zoos, Orban said, adding, "Sounds like a normal life."
Hospitalisation rates and the number of those on ventilators have fallen from April peaks as Hungary pushed through Europe's most rapid inoculation programme, according to EU data.
With massive shipments of Chinese and Russian doses as well as growing stocks of Western vaccines, Hungary will soon be able to inoculate citizens younger than 18 and those living in foreign countries.
Hungary has been criticised for opting to use vaccines from Eastern nations before they received European Union approval, a move it has a right to make, but Orban said the numbers vindicated him.
"I don't care if a cat is black or white," he said. "I just want it to catch the mouse."
(Global vaccination tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access/)
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