May 1, 2020 / 6:12 AM / a month ago

Hungary PM warns of potential second coronavirus wave in October-November

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a conference in Budapest, Hungary, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary needs to prepare for a potential second wave of coronavirus cases in October and November after a likely slowdown in the outbreak’s infection rate in the summer, the prime minister told state radio on Friday.

Viktor Orban also said restrictions on movement in Budapest and surroundings, where 80% of the country’s coronavirus deaths have been recorded, would not be eased until the fatality rate fell in that area.

From Monday, Hungary will lift some curbs in the countryside, where shops and restaurant terraces will be allowed to reopen as the government tries to put the battered economy back on track.

“The virus has not gone away, we have only won some time,” Orban told state radio. “We have to prepare for a second wave (of the epidemic) in October-November.”

As of Friday, Hungary has reported 2,863 cases of COVID-19, and 323 deaths.

Orban said the focus was on creating as many jobs in the country as had been destroyed by the economic fallout from the virus outbreak.

He said his government would offer paid training and widen the public works programme. The army was also in a recruitment phase.

A phased lifting of restrictions is the government’s strategy to head off more lasting damage to the economy, which is expected to shrink by about 4% this year based on a Reuters survey. It expanded by 4.9% last year.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and John Stonestreet

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