Meanwhile, the third wave of the pandemic hits Hungary harder than ever before, precise data and exact numbers would be necessary to know and to predict what to expect, how to react and how to prepare both the health care system and the population for what may come in the near future.
The Hungarian government has only made public the most basic data concerning the coronavirus epidemic, such as the number of covid patients admitted to the hospital. Journalists of the opposition media are not even allowed to enter Hungarian hospitals, and doctors can not give interviews either, except for a few cases. Among these circumstances, with these basic data, it is very problematic to deduct the possible continuation or outcome of the current wave or if there will be any other in the future.
The general situation in Europe is different; official governmental websites are full of information and colourful graphs aimed at helping the whole population to see clearly what is going on and how things are changing day by day. To give just one example from not so far away, the Slovakian and the Slovenian governmental sites even include in Hungarian the number of patients accepted to intensive care, apart from the number of those being on ventilators and the number of free beds available both in the ICU and in the hospitals’ general rooms. The official site of Slovakia, in particular, is very interactive and always full of new information with which anyone can track how the epidemic is changing or can see if his area is considered an epicentre or not. This is the case, though, in most European countries: in France, Italy, Poland, Portugal or Romania.
On the other hand,
the Hungarian site koronavirus.gov.hu gives no such detailed information.
Some primary data, around 6-8 types, can be found in a system in which it isn’t very easy to search. Furthermore, on many occasions, even these
numbers arrive late and incorrectly. Moreover, a part of the already posted information gets deleted the next day.
Data on infectious cases in a given municipality, for instance, is uploaded collectively, which provides us with the only information of how many tests have been made since last March in a particular municipality. In case we would be interested in the current numbers, we have to download for ourselves the picture containing such data and compare it to that of tomorrow’s picture, as previous information is deleted every single day.
If someone wants to know more about all this information, to compare numbers from different months or different waves of the virus, the private sector is here to help. Koronamonitor, for instance, operated by Átlátszó, has been chosen by Datajuornalism.com as one of the ten best sites publishing information on the epidemic.
The website is almost entirely updated automatically and contains a simulator that can predict the pandemic curve’s change for the near future. However, all data introduced to this website comes from official governmental announcements.
“We do not know the number of deceased in different cities, nor the epicentre; there is much information we have no idea about, and probably we will never have.”, said Attila Bátorfy from Átlátszó to Euronews. Not having data about a small village is forgivable, but not knowing practically anything about people admitted to hospitals and having to deduct these information is entirely different. Bátorfy also added that
many news published on this governmental website do not even have anything to do with the coronavirus.
Apart from this website and politicians’ Facebook posts, press conferences of the operative board and the weekly press conferences of the government serve as sources concerning the pandemic. Journalists send in their questions, hoping they will all be answered; however, only a few of them are actually considered. When it comes to doctors, there are 2 or 3 of them assigned to report and answer questions, if they can be reached at all.
“There is no one to ask in Hungary. If a journalist finds a professional or a health care worker, for instance, who would be willing to answer his questions, that is an incredible opportunity. These people are afraid of what could happen to them at their workplace as a consequence of giving a statement.”, explained Emese Pásztor from Társaság a Szabadságjogokért (society for the rights to freedom).
A further problem is that they increased from 15 to 45 days the deadline to answer a public interest data request. This period can then be delayed by additional 45 days by the authorities, referring to the impeding of the defence against covid. Meaning that
there is a chance that a journalist would only receive his relevant answer in 3 months.
Euronews, for instance, has not been able to shoot or enter neither a Hungarian hospital nor a school for the past one year, and their same request was denied two weeks ago, referring to the severity of the coronavirus situation. Thus the superhuman effort made every single day by doctors, nurses and all personnel in the Hungarian hospitals can not be shown to the public through the lenses of independent media.