March 15, 2020 / 1:51 PM / 24 days ago

Hungary confirms first death from coronavirus

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary on Sunday confirmed the central European nation’s first official victim of the new coronavirus, state news agency MTI reported.

A 75 year-old Hungarian national died shortly after being hospitalised with severe pneumonia and a suspected coronavirus infection, the government communication centre said.

Hungary has 32 confirmed coronavirus cases and 159 people in quarantine, according to government data. The government closed all schools and introduced restrictions on public gathering this week.

A 99 year-old woman also died this week after being exposed to her daughter, who has since tested positive for the new coronavirus. She is not officially a coronavirus victim because she was not tested before she died and a release statement was not yet available, the web site 444.hu reported on Sunday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an ardent nationalist, was quick to blame the spread of the virus on foreigners, telling national radio on Friday that there was a clear link between illegal immigration and the spread of the virus.

“Because movement spreads the disease and makes the epidemic global, and migration is movement, therefore there is a logical link between the two,” he said. “Hungary has managed to defend against migration, so we are protected against the infections migrants may bring with them.”

The government decided to close all schools on Friday after all political parties, including the ruling Fidesz party, asked it to. First it had closed only universities, saying they taught many foreigners, after the first dozen cases were heavily clustered around medical schools with lots of foreign students.

Although the first reported cases were Iranians, Hungarians by now outnumber foreigners 22 to 10.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, William Maclean

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