A total of 60,281 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Poland since the start of the pandemic, and 1,938 have died from the COVID-19 respiratory disease so far, officials said on Friday.
The number of new virus cases rose by 903 from the previous day, while the death toll increased by 13, according to public health authorities.
Of the new cases confirmed on Friday, 168 were in the southern Silesia coal region, where infections have spiked among miners and their families.
Meanwhile, 156 new cases were reported in the neighbouring province of Małopolskie, where multiple outbreaks have emerged in recent weeks.
The country's central Mazowieckie region, which includes the national capital Warsaw, had the third-highest number of new infections confirmed on Friday, at 146.
The latest deaths in Poland’s coronavirus outbreak are eight men aged 64 to 89 and five women aged 66 to 92, the Polish health ministry said in a tweet.
It added that most of these patients had pre-existing medical conditions.
On Thursday, Poland confirmed 12 deaths and 767 new coronavirus infections nationwide, compared with 17 deaths and 735 new cases a day earlier.
2,151 in hospitals, 103,351 quarantined
The health ministry announced on Friday morning that 2,151 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals nationwide, 84 of them on ventilators, with a further 103,351 people quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure, and 8,902 under epidemiological supervision.
Meanwhile, 41,029 people have now recovered from COVID-19 throughout the country, including 548 over the last 24 hours, the health ministry also said.
50 COVID-19 deaths per million
With 50 COVID-19 deaths per million population, Poland remains far less affected by the coronavirus epidemic than many other countries in Europe, according to a set of data released by the country’s health ministry this week.
To compare, Belgium has 857 deaths per million residents, according to new statistics released by the Polish health ministry on Tuesday, while Spain has 613 and Britain reports 609.
The list of countries severely hit by the coronavirus also includes Italy, with 586 deaths per million population, Sweden with 573, and France with 466, according to the Polish health ministry.
Croatia, the newest European Union member, has a lower proportion of coronavirus deaths than Poland, at 40 per million residents, while the Czech Republic has 37, seven more than Lithuania and 15 more than Greece, the new data found.
'State of epidemic'
Poland's first SARS-CoV-2 infection was confirmed by authorities on March 4, while the country's first coronavirus fatality was announced on March 12.
Poland later that month declared a "state of epidemic" and temporarily closed its borders to non-residents in a move to curb the spread of the illness.
International scheduled flights and passenger rail connections were suspended on March 15.
In another effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the government banned public gatherings and closed all pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Health and government officials urged Poles to stay home and practice social distancing.
People were ordered to wear masks or other face coverings when out in public.
Easing of restrictions
Some restrictions were relaxed in late April, and hotels and shopping malls were allowed to reopen in early May as the country moved to the next phase of easing its coronavirus lockdown.
Hairdressers, beauty parlours, restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed to reopen to customers in mid-May.
Poland relaxed face mask rules at the end of May, and it also allowed public gatherings of up to 150 people.
In another move to ease coronavirus measures, the government lifted restrictions on how many people can gather in places such as retail outlets, restaurants and churches though face coverings and social distancing are still required.
Nurseries and preschools throughout the country were given the green light to resume operations.
Poland also reopened outdoor sports areas and allowed football matches to be played behind closed doors in late May.
Culture and entertainment venues as well as indoor sports facilities were allowed to restart their operations from June 6.
Polish football and speedway stadiums reopened to spectators at 25 percent capacity on June 19.
Elementary schools began reopening to young children at the end of May as the country lifted more COVID-19 safety measures.
But most schools at all levels of education stayed shut to students until the end of the academic year on June 26, providing distance learning instead of in-person classes.
Poland reopened its borders with its European Union neighbours in June.
The country reopened its skies for domestic flights on June 1, while some international flights to destinations within Europe were allowed to resume later in the month.
Poland in early July resumed flights to a number of non-European Union countries, including Britain and Canada.
More curbs lifted
The government at the end of last month further eased the country’s coronavirus restrictions, allowing larger crowds at sporting and cultural events.
Sports stadiums were given the green light to host fans up to 50 percent of their normal capacity, up from 25 percent under previous rules.
Poland also relaxed its social distancing measures as of July 25, recommending that people remain 1.5 metres away from others to maintain safety, down from a previous guideline of 2 metres.
Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski announced this month that traditional in-person classes would be reinstated in most of Poland’s schools after the summer break ends on September 1.
Renewed measures after spike
Amid a spike in infections, the country on August 8 reimposed stricter COVID-19 measures in some of its worst affected areas.
In a first step, restrictions were temporarily reinstated in 19 counties with the highest increases in new cases.
The list was later updated to feature 18 counties as of August 14.
At the end of this week, the list was modified further to feature seven “red-zone” counties and 12 “yellow-zone” counties with the largest numbers of new infections.
These include areas in various parts of the country where new virus hot spots have emerged recently.
The health ministry also warned that several other areas, among them the major cities of Kraków, Katowice and Koszalin, were at risk of renewed restrictions due to rising cases.
Depending on the severity of outbreaks, renewed measures include obligatory wearing of face masks outdoors, curbs on sporting facilities and cultural venues, and restrictions for those using public transportation.
Authorities have also limited the number of people who are able to attend weddings, funerals and other events in worst-hit areas.
New health minister
Meanwhile, the head of the National Health Fund (NFZ), Adam Niedzielski, is set to take over as Poland’s new health minister, following an announcement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday.
Adam Niedzielski. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański
The appointment comes after Poland’s previous health minister, Łukasz Szumowski, announced two days earlier he was quitting.
Szumowski, who had been at the centre of the country’s battle against the COVID-19 epidemic, told reporters he felt he could now leave because Poland had built a system to fight the epidemic, and the virus had not caused the economy to crash.
Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info