Hungary’s Pandemic Woe: How to Get Rid of All Those Ventilators?

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Hungary’s government has conceded that it bought too many ventilators earlier this year during the first wave of the pandemic. Now it’s trying to get rid of them.

“We’re able to sell those in excess of our strategic stockpile or we’re able to help others” by donating them, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters on Thursday in Budapest.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government bought more than 16,000 ventilators this year and it’s trying to reduce its inventory by half, according to HVG.hu news website. Hungary has instructed its diplomats to try to sell the equipment abroad.

Hungary had 255 patients on ventilators as of Wednesday, almost five times as many as in the beginning of October. In the past week, Hungary had the third-highest number of deaths per capita in the European Union after the Czech Republic and Belgium.

The government has spent 300 billion forint ($953 million) on ventilators this year. Between February and June, Germany, with a population more than eight times that of Hungary, procured almost twice as many ventilators and associated equipment as reported by mass for less than a tenth of the price paid by Budapest, Direkt36 news website reported.

The purchases were also criticized by opposition parties because the number of ventilators far exceeded the number of medical personnel available to operate them in Hungary’s underfunded and understaffed health-care system.

Hungary bought the equipment when conditions were “abnormal” and every country was vying to purchase them, mostly from China, Szijjarto said on Thursday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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