Second wave of pandemic appears to have peaked in Hungary, says PM's aide

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Candles are lit in memory of Hungary's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims in Budapest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic appears to have peaked in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, Hungary had reported 306,368 COVID-19 cases with 8,462 deaths and 108,676 recoveries. New cases rose by just 1,238 on Tuesday, but more than 7,000 people are still in hospital with COVID-19, straining the healthcare system.

"We can see a clear reversal in the spread of the infection in Hungary," Gulyas told an online briefing.

"It appears as though we are past the peak of the second wave in terms of infections," Gulyas said, adding that the government hoped the number of deaths would also start declining in the next two weeks.

Gulyas said the government would keep existing restrictions, including a night-time curfew in place until at least Jan. 11, except for a temporary lifting of the curfew on Dec. 24.

Gulyas added that Hungary would start inoculations with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday after receiving a first shipment of about 5,500 doses.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)