How the third wave hit Hungary, charted

May 12. 2021. – 02:14 PM


How the third wave hit Hungary, charted
Doctor working at the Covid-19 ICU of the Szent György Hospital in Fejér County on 28 April 2021 – Photo: Tamás Vasvári / MTI

By today, compared to the peak of the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in Hungary, the number of infections dropped by 87 per cent and the number of hospital admittances and of deaths both fell by two-thirds. The current numbers paint a picture similar to the situation in early February when we believed that we are out of the water after the second wave, and the latest data shows that there are only as many people in hospital as in October. Still, it would be early to say that the epidemic is over in Hungary; there are still somewhere around a thousand new confirmed cases and a hundred deaths each day, but the curve shows that the third wave is on its way out, so let's summarize the painful losses it inflicted.

Since last May, more than 28 000 people have died in Hungary for reasons related to Covid-19. The pandemic affected the age group over 70 the most; they make up over two-thirds (67 per cent) of the victims.

This chart shows a more detailed demographic breakdown of the victims. The reason for more women dying in the older age groups is that they were more numerous in this group due to the lower average lifespan of men. The mortality of men due to Covid-19 is clearly higher in the middle-aged demographic.

We mentioned in an earlier article that while the first and second waves indeed affected the elderly the most, the third one was somewhat different in this regard. By this March, most older adults were already vaccinated, and the faster spreading Kent variant hit the middle-aged demographic harder, with many of them, including even people in their 30s and 40s, dying despite not having any severe pre-existing medical conditions. The following chart shows how much more powerful the third wave was:

Note on the following chart how those above 80 make up an increasingly smaller proportion of the victims while the share of younger generations grows wave after wave, often dramatically; the proportion of people dying of Covid-19 in their fifties increased by 50% between the second and third waves.

The following chart needs no particular explanation; it shows the average number of daily deaths throughout each wave.

The third wave looks even more threatening if we align the outbreaks (draw the chart from the starting day of each wave). The graph also shows how much quicker the Kent variant exploded, driving deaths up much faster but ending way sooner as well. If there was one thing all countries wanted to avoid with their coronavirus response, it was what happened here and in many other places: so many people admitted to hospital and so many people dying in such a short time.

If you want to get a more accurate picture of how many people fell victim to the pandemic in Hungary, you must look at the excess deaths compared to previous years. Surprisingly, data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Bureau show that the third wave did not increase the excess deaths as much as the second one did. It is clear, though, that the pandemic significantly increased mortality in the country compared to the average of the 2015-2019 period (the spike in 2019 is the effect of the influenza epidemic). Both the second and the third waves brought about a 35-40 per cent increase in mortality.

The translation was produced in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.