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Viktor Orbán. Photo: Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images

Hungary's parliament passed a law Monday to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán almost unlimited power, for an indefinite period, to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: Hungary has taken a sharply authoritarian turn over the past decade under Orbán, and its likely that he and other strongman leaders around the world will seek to maintain powers they gain during the current crisis long after it's over.

Details: The new law puts Hungary into a state of emergency with no time limit. Orbán will be allowed to rule by decree, and all elections will be suspended.

  • Orbán's Fidesz Party controls parliament, along with most of the media and government institutions. It passed the law despite opposition from rival parties and civil society.
  • It includes "jail terms of up to five years for intentionally spreading misinformation that hinders the government response to the pandemic, leading to fears that it could be used to censor or self-censor criticism of the government response," per The Guardian.

Where things stand: Hungary has 447 confirmed coronavirus cases with 15 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Limited testing means the case count could be significantly higher.

Go deeper

FBI report likely to show record increase in murders in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If the FBI data released next week shows what's expected — that 2020 saw the highest single-year spike in U.S. murders in at least six decades — experts say the sudden job losses, fears and other jolts to society at the start of COVID-19 will likely have been the overwhelming drivers.

Why it matters: Many Democrats already feared that rising crime could hurt their party in the 2022 midterms.

18 mins ago - Health

Some experts see signs of hope as COVID cases fall

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New coronavirus cases are continuing to decline, and some experts are cautiously optimistic that the virus will continue to wane even into the fall and winter.

The big picture: The next few months are highly uncertain, and some localized outbreaks are all but guaranteed. But the U.S. is at least moving in the right direction again.

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight — hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts.

The big picture: Air quality alerts were issued Wednesday for the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.