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Hungary Sticks to Restrained Virus Response as Deaths Hit Record

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Hungary’s government set out new measures to fight the spiraling coronavirus pandemic, reinstating a state of emergency and imposing a midnight curfew, but falling short of some of the tighter restrictions announced elsewhere in Europe.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared a state of emergency as of Wednesday, and asked lawmakers to approve an extension for 90 days, increasing his executive maneuver room. The government will allow sporting and cultural events to continue, albeit at a third of maximum capacity, the premier said in a video on Facebook. Night clubs will be shut and a daily curfew imposed between midnight and 5 a.m.

Orban is sticking to relatively loose restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, despite record new cases and daily deaths announced Tuesday. Unlike peers in eastern Europe, Hungary will keep restaurants and schools open, and hasn’t formally requested people to work remotely, where possible.

The premier’s virus response is driven by the desire to keep the economy running, and avoid the 14% second-quarter slump in output that put Hungary among the worst hit in the region.

“Hungarian hospitals may reach their capacity limits by the middle of December” if the current trend continues, Orban said in the video. “We need to pull through until the vaccine arrives.”

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