Researchers at the national security lab of Hungary’s National Centre for Public Health (NNK) have become the first in the country to successfully isolate the new coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease, the chief medical officer said on Tuesday.
The breakthrough will allow scientists to begin developing a vaccine against the virus and to test various therapies, Cecília Müller told a press conference after a meeting of the operative board coordinating the epidemic response.
The team that isolated the virus was led by virologist Zoltán Kiss, she said, adding that it would provide live and non-live samples of the virus to both Hungarian and foreign researchers.
Müller also said the number of coronavirus patients in Hungary is expected to reach the hundreds over the coming days, adding that the spread of the virus was in line with NNK’s projections.
Muller warned seniors above 70 not to leave their homes, or keep a distance of 2 metres from other people should they still need to go out. Concerning younger people, she said that outdoor activities were recommended to otherwise healthy people without Covid-19 symptoms, if not done in groups.
Vaccination programmes scheduled according to the age of children will continue but optional ones such as against HPV will be delayed by a few months, Müller said.
Answering a question about coronavirus testing protocols, Müller said that the number of test laboratories has been “significantly increased”, noting that there was a larger demand in view of the number of new cases and contacts. The government has ordered “many” tests and will take steps to accelerate laboratory procedures, she said.
Asked why the numbers of cases broken down geographically were not available, Müller said the aim was to fight the epidemic rather than cause panic.
Concerning the 50 Covid-19 cases currently treated in Hungarian hospitals, Müller said that two of them were in a serious condition, requiring ventilators. She added that there was a sufficient number of ventilators in the country, while further ones are being purchased.