Untouched by the first wave and not majorly hit by the second wave, the Visegrad countries have struggled to contain the third wave of Covid-19. Poland, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia in the past few weeks reintroduced many of their previous restrictions and entered yet another lockdown. The B117 variant is causing chaos in these four countries and accounts for the majority of infections.
Poland: Last Thursday during a press conference the Prime Minister along with the Minister of Health announced the introduction of further restrictions as cases reached nearly 35,000 that day. Hospitals in some regions are out of beds and are running low on oxygen. Ambulances at times must either wait in long queues or travel long distances to hospitals where beds are still available.
Talks are already underway to evacuate some critically ill patients from regions where hospitals are overcrowded, particularly Silesia and Warsaw. At the same time many of the vaccination appointments are already booked out for April and May. Over 6 million people have been vaccinated in Poland: 4 million with the first dose, 2 million with the second dose. Many government ministers do not rule out further restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19. The implementation of a state of emergency as well as a curfew seem to be on the table.
Slovakia: At the moment the situation in Slovakia began to somewhat improve. From mid-February cases as well as death rates in Slovakia were on the rise. As a result many restrictions were reintroduced and the Slovakian government decided to order the Sputnik V vaccine to have an extra tool to combat the quickly rising cases. That however, led to a major crisis within the government which is currently on the edge of collapse, Only weeks ago the Health Minister resigned as well as other ministers from the government while on Sunday the Prime Minister Igor Matovic resigned.
One of the major critics of the deal under which the Sputnik V vaccines were acquired, was the President of Slovakia Caputova. A week ago she called on the PM to quit. Currently over 15% of the Slovakian population received either the first or the second dose of the vaccine.
Czechia: About a month ago Czechia was making international headlines as cases skyrocketed. The healthcare system was overstretched and a state of emergency was extended until the 11th of April. According to the European Centre for Disease Control at the beginning of March Czechia had the highest infection rate in the world.
At the beginning of March the Czech government approved a plan which orders medical, university and high school students to help at hospitals which are struggling to cope with Covid patients. Recently the Czech Republic President wrote a letter to the Chinese authorities asking them to deliver the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
Hungary: In Hungary cases have been on the rise since mid-February and lately the government announced that restrictions will be tightened further. Borders remain closed for all travellers, even those who hold Hungarian citizenship. The past few weeks have been grim for Hungary as a record number of cases and deaths were recorded.
In terms of vaccinations Hungary has been an outlier in the European Union as it approved the Chinese Convidecia & Sinopharm, India's Covishield and Russian Sputnik V vaccines. All of which have not yet received the EMA approval. Currently just under 30% of the Hungarian population have received either the first or second dose of the vaccine.
Currently Central-Europe seems to be the hot spot of Covid infections. The only way to stop the spread and save lives is to ramp up the vaccination process and re-introduce lockdowns, which is exactly what the governments of the Visegrad Group are doing. With disturbed vaccine supply chains, ramping up vaccinations has proved to be an extremely difficult task. Meanwhile successive lockdowns have cost the region billions. Only time will tell whether the situation among the Visegrad countries is a foresight of what is to follow in the rest of Europe. What is certain is that the road to recovery among European countries is slowly looking longer.