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Hungary to ease lockdown despite COVID-19 surge

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By Euronews with AP
A man holds a Hungarian flag during a protest in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, March 15, 2021.
A man holds a Hungarian flag during a protest in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, March 15, 2021.   -   Copyright  Laszlo Balogh/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Hungary will start easing lockdown restrictions on Wednesday after inoculating more than a quarter of its population with at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday.

The decision comes as Hungary faces a devastating surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has one of the highest infection rates in Europe in recent weeks and the third-worst death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In a video posted on Facebook, Orban said the country reached the benchmark of 2.5 million first injections, a condition for the start of a gradual reopening.

"Today, we reached an important milestone,'' Orban said.

"The virus waged a war against us, and the only weapon that promises victory is the vaccine."

Starting Wednesday, businesses and services that have been closed since March 8 will be allowed to reopen, provided capacity limits are enforced and social distancing is observed.

The mandatory closing time for shops will be extended from 7 pm to 9:30 pm.

The start of an overnight curfew in place since November will be extended by two hours to 10 pm

Hungary, with a population of less than 10 million, has the second-highest vaccination rate in the EU.

The country's procurement strategy sought shots from China and Russia, in addition to the jabs approved by the bloc's regulator.

"Hungary can be and will be the European country where everyone gets a vaccine the fastest,'' Orban said.