By JUSTIN SPIKE, Associated Press

BUDPAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s political opposition leader said Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19 amid a spike in cases fueled by the highly transmissible variant of omicron.

Peter Marki-Zay, an independent Conservative who will represent a six-party opposition coalition in the April parliamentary elections, said on his Facebook page that he tested positive after showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 after a television appearance on Tuesday night.

“I have canceled all external programs, entered quarantine and continue to work from home, working for a change of government,” Marki-Zay wrote, adding that he had received three doses of the vaccine.

Omicron is less likely to cause severe disease than the previous delta variant, studies show. Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects people who have been vaccinated or previously infected with earlier versions of the virus.

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Marki-Zay’s announcement came on the same day that Hungary reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, part of an exponential rise in the central European country. probably caused by omicron.

According to the government’s official coronavirus website, 14,890 new cases were detected on Wednesday, nearly double the figure from a week earlier and surpassing the previous record set in November of more than 2,000 cases.

Last week, the private lab that first identified the variant in Hungary, Neumann Labs, told the Telex news site that 90% of the positive COVID-19 samples it takes are caused by omicron. .

The true number of infections in Hungary is likely much higher than reported figures. Nearly 58% of COVID-19 tests recorded by the government on Wednesday were positive, far more than the 5% or less recommended by the World Health Organization.

Marki-Zay’s diagnosis will interrupt a tour of the country as he campaigns ahead of April 3 elections, in which he will represent six opposition parties as a co-prime minister candidate to take on the right-wing prime minister Victor Orban.

Orban’s government in recent months has relied on increasing vaccination rates to defend against the pandemic rather than imposing mitigation measures. Last week, it announced it would reduce the length of required quarantine from 10 to seven days and allow a five-day quarantine for asymptomatic people who test negative for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, 40,686 people died of COVID-19-related causes in Hungary, while 61.4% of Hungarians received at least two doses of the vaccine, below the European Union average of 69.1%. according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. .

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