Hungary detects UK variant of coronavirus, surgeon general says

BUDAPEST (Reuters) — Hungary detected the latest, easier to spread coronavirus variant that first was identified in Britain, its general surgeon said Wednesday, a week after the United Kingdom placed a ban on passenger flights.

Premier Viktor Orban's Government prolonged a temporary lockdown last week to help limit the spread of the virus in Hungary as vaccines begin progressively from early November to early next month.

Since November 11, all secondary schools, with the exception of takeaway meals, have been locked down, a 1900 GMT curfew has been in place, and all meetings are prohibited unless it is a second wave of a pandemic that hits the world.

"My colleagues have identified the UK virus variant, already found in neighbouring countries, in the samples of three patients," said Surgeon General Cecilia Muller.

"It was obvious that Hungary would not be able to avoid this variant either."

Despite the recent reduction in the number of active cases and hospitalizations, Muller noted that there was no recommendation to alleviate current constraints.

Hungary had 345,710 cases of coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic since Wednesday and an estimated population of about 10 million, with 10,948 deaths.

Currently about 5,000 people are diagnosed with the illness which put a burden on the health care system.

(Gergely Szakacs and Anita Komuves reporting; Gareth Jones editing)