Hungary prolongs coronavirus lockdown indefinitely as infections near 1,000

By Marton Dunai
FILE PHOTO: Hungary's PM Orban takes part in an annual business conference in Budapest

By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary has prolonged a nationwide lockdown indefinitely to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday, asking citizens to observe the order despite the Easter holiday.

Hungary has officially recorded 980 confirmed cases and 66 deaths in the pandemic, although the government has acknowledged the number of actual cases is probably much higher as the country nears the phase of mass infections.

The country introduced stay at home orders last month. That order was about to expire over the Easter weekend, when Hungarians traditionally visit family and men go around playfully spraying women with water or cologne in a fertility ritual.

"This Easter will differ from the ones we know," Orban said in a video recorded in his office and posted on his Facebook page. "The curfew restrictions have been reasonable and successful as they have slowed the spread of the epidemic."

The government would review the need to maintain the lockdown each week, Orban said, adding that municipal governments would be allowed to impose special restrictions that ensure local communities are protected.

As spring weather arrived in recent days, Hungarians sought out leisure spots, prompting mayors and local councils to plead everyone to stay away.

More than 100 people were infected in a Budapest retirement home, Surgeon General Cecilia Muller said.

The state news agency MTI quoted Muller as saying five of those people have died.


(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry)