A person holds a sign during a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures and vaccinations in front of the Ministry of Human Capacities, in Budapest, Hungary, January 16, 2022. The sign reads "British scientists prove that the vaccine helps mostly those who sell it". REUTERS/Marton Monus

Over a thousand people marched in Budapest protesting against COVID-19 inoculation at a rally organised by the far-right Our Homeland Movement, which has been campaigning on a fierce anti-vaccine and anti-immigration message ahead of April 3 elections.

“Vaccines should not be mandatory! We don’t tolerate blackmail,” said the slogan of the rally where people held up banners saying: “I am unvaccinated, not a criminal” and “Enough of COVID dictatorship.”

Hungary’s nationalist government has made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory only for teachers and healthcare workers.

With 10 million people and 40,237 people deaths from COVID-19 so far, Hungary has a vaccination rate of just over 60%, which lags western European levels.

Just over six million Hungarians have received at least two shots, and 3.3 million have also received a third booster.

New infections have spiked this week due to the Omicron variant but there are hardly any restrictions in place. The government now offers a fourth jab after a consultation with a doctor and a six-month gap. 

Our Homeland, an offshoot of the former far-right party Jobbik, has allied itself with ultra-radical fringe groups in past years.

According to a December poll by Zavecz Research, Our Homeland had 3% support, which would be below the 5% threshold for making it into parliament at the April elections.

The ruling Fidesz had 38% support, while the six-party opposition alliance scored 39% in the poll, indicating that Prime Minister Viktor Orban faces a tough race for re-election after 12 years in power.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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