Mon, 17 May 2021

Authorities in Hungary have delayed the planned reopening of secondary schools to mid-May amid calls for a postponement of one of the European Union's more ambitious curbing of pandemic restrictions.

Prime Minister Victor Orban announced the three-week delay, to May 10, on state radio on April 9.

It came with reports of teachers, parents, and students urging a slower approach to the easing, with new infections falling only gradually since a high of 11,265 on March 26.

SEE ALSO: Bulgaria Eases Restrictions, Citing Improving COVID-19 Data

Hungarian authorities began an easing of anti-pandemic measures on April 7, as they reached one-quarter of the country vaccinated, that the Hungarian Medical Chamber criticized as premature.

Orban and his dominant Fidesz party allies have pressed for a swift reopening to kick-start the Hungarian economy; it's the only EU member state to have begun mass vaccinations using the Russian Sputnik V injection and with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.

Orban has been a vocal critic of the European Union's COVID-19 response.

Hungary is highest among EU states in vaccinations and has imported more vaccine doses per capita, but it has also been at or near the top of COVID-19 death charts adjusted for population recently.

SEE ALSO: Russia Demands Slovakia Return Sputnik Vaccine After Regulator Cites Discrepancies

The Teachers' Democratic Trade Union posted on April 8 that it did not believe the country was ready yet for in-person teaching.

In his April 9 radio interview, Orban said he hoped 3.5 million of Hungary's nearly 10 million residents will have gotten at least one vaccine shot by April 16.

He predicted a 70 percent level -- which would still be short of what most experts believe is needed for herd immunity -- by early June.

Budapest is among 12 host cities for the delayed Euro 2020 soccer championships slated for mid-June, and Orban said he hoped fans could 'attend the events with an immunity card.'

With reporting by Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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