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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Poland’s coronavirus cases rise to 69,820, deaths up to 2,100: health ministry

04.09.2020 10:50
A total of 69,820 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Poland since the start of the pandemic, and 2,100 have died from the COVID-19 respiratory disease so far, officials said on Friday.
Polands Health Minister Adam Niedzielski (left) and Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska (right) talk to reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday.
Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski (left) and Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska (right) talk to reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday.Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The number of new virus cases rose by 691 from the previous day, while the death toll increased by eight, according to public health authorities.

Of the new cases confirmed on Friday, 121 were in the central province of Mazowieckie, which includes the national capital Warsaw.

Meanwhile, 120 new infections were reported in the southern province of Małopolskie, which contains the historic city of Kraków.

The country's western Wielkopolska region, where multiple outbreaks have emerged in recent weeks, had the third-highest number of new cases confirmed on Friday, at 93.

The latest deaths in Poland’s coronavirus outbreak are five men aged 58 to 95 and three women aged 79 to 89, the Polish health ministry said in a tweet.

It added that most of these patients had pre-existing medical conditions.

On Thursday, Poland confirmed 14 deaths and 612 new coronavirus infections nationwide, compared with 20 deaths and 595 new cases a day earlier.

On August 21, Poland's public health authorities reported a record daily rise of 903 new coronavirus infections nationwide, the most since the pandemic hit the country in early March.

2,179 in hospitals, 71,311 quarantined

The health ministry announced on Friday morning that 2,179 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals nationwide, 75 of them on ventilators, with a further 71,311 people quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure, and 7,610 under epidemiological supervision.

Meanwhile, 49,820 people have now recovered from COVID-19 throughout the country, including a record 1,227 over the last 24 hours, the health ministry also said.

54 COVID-19 deaths per million

With 54 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 853 deaths per million residents, according to new statistics released by the Polish health ministry on Tuesday, while Spain has 622 and Britain reports 611.

The list of countries severely hit by the coronavirus also includes Italy, with 587 deaths per million population, Sweden with 574, and France with 469, according to the Polish health ministry.

Croatia, the newest European Union member, has a lower proportion of coronavirus deaths than Poland, at 45 per million residents, while the Czech Republic has 40, eight more than Lithuania and 14 more than Greece, the 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 July 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.

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 then updated each week. As of Saturday, September 5, it will feature three “red-zone” counties and seven “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. One such area is the southern town of Nowy Sącz.

The health ministry warned on Friday that several other areas, among them the Warsaw suburb of Otwock, 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, national health service chief Adam Niedzielski has taken over as Poland’s new health minister, following a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in the middle of last week.

Poland's newly appointed Health Minister Adam Niedzielski. Poland's newly appointed Health Minister Adam Niedzielski.

The appointment came days after Poland’s previous health minister, Łukasz Szumowski, announced 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 leave because Poland had built a system to fight the epidemic, and the virus had not caused the economy to crash.

'Flexible risk management'

Niedzielski told reporters on Thursday that he and his aides had developed a strategy to deal with a possible second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the fall.

The approach is based on "flexible risk management," he said, with an increased role for primary care providers and a larger number of drive-through testing sites.

Niedzielski stressed the role of prevention, including disinfection, social distancing and face mask wearing, while also urging mass vaccination against the flu.

Polish Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska said last month that citizens were well advised to get vaccinated against the flu, especially as it caused symptoms similar to COVID-19.

He told a news conference at the time that a combination of a busy flu season with an increased incidence of COVID-19 cases could place an excessive strain on the country’s health service, making it difficult for doctors to distinguish between the two diseases due to similar symptoms.

Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski (left) and Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska (right) talk to reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski (left) and Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska (right) talk to reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2020. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Poland reopens schools as virus fears ease 

Poland on Tuesday reopened most of its schools to students after the summer break ended and a new school year began.

Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski said last month that, after a prolonged period of distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, traditional in-person classes would be reinstated in most schools nationwide from September 1.

"The current epidemic situation, as evaluated by the Ministry of Health and the chief sanitary inspector, allows us to restore normal classes, based on direct interaction between the teacher and students, in the overwhelming majority of educational institutions—in most schools, kindergartens and nurseries," Piontkowski told reporters.

Poland's Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski briefs reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.  Poland's Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski briefs reporters at a news conference in Warsaw on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.

President, gov't discuss new steps to curb COVID-19

Meanwhile, President Andrzej Duda was on Friday set to confer with members of Poland’s government at a special meeting to discuss steps to tackle the country's coronavirus outbreak ahead of a possible second wave of the pandemic.

“We have a new health minister, and we have also entered a new school year, and at the same time the fall is coming, raising concerns over a possible double impact of the flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Krzysztof Szczerski, chief of staff to the Polish president, told reporters ahead of the meeting.

(gs)

Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info