A total of 104,316 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Poland since the pandemic began, and 2,717 have died from the COVID-19 respiratory disease so far, public health officials announced.
Of the new cases confirmed on Tuesday, 318 were in the central region of Mazowieckie, which includes the national capital Warsaw.
Meanwhile, 268 new infections were reported in the southern province of Małopolskie, which contains the historic city of Kraków.
The country's southern Silesia coal mining region had the third-highest number of new infections confirmed on Tuesday, at 218.
The latest deaths in Poland’s coronavirus outbreak are people aged 46 to 91, the Polish health ministry said in a tweet.
It added that 56 of these patients had pre-existing medical conditions, while two died directly because of COVID-19.
On Monday, the Polish health ministry reported 29 deaths and 2,006 new coronavirus infections nationwide, compared with 26 deaths and 1,934 new cases a day earlier.
On Saturday, October 3, Poland's public health authorities reported 2,367 new COVID-19 cases, the most since the pandemic hit the country in early March.
Poland’s second-highest daily count was when 2,292 new coronavirus infections were confirmed nationwide a day earlier.
3,719 in hospitals, 159,530 quarantined
The health ministry announced on Tuesday morning that 3,719 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals nationwide, 263 of them on ventilators, with a further 159,530 people quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure, and 19,933 under epidemiological supervision.
Meanwhile, 74,158 people have now recovered from COVID-19 throughout the country, including 606 over the last 24 hours, the health ministry also said.
65 COVID-19 deaths per million
With 65 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 last week.
To compare, Belgium has 860 deaths per million residents, according to new statistics released by the Polish health ministry last Tuesday, while Spain has 672 and Britain reports 618.
The list of countries severely hit by the coronavirus also includes Italy, with 593 deaths per million population, Sweden with 581, and France with 487, according to the Polish health ministry.
Croatia, the newest European Union member, has a slightly higher proportion of coronavirus deaths than Poland, at 66 per million residents, while the Czech Republic has 58, twenty-one more than Greece and 24 more than Poland's northeastern neighbor Lithuania, the data found.
TIMELINE: HOW COVID-19 UNFOLDED IN POLAND
'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, October 3, it features 17 “red-zone” counties and 34 “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, according to officials.
The health ministry warned last week that a number of other areas, including the entire city of Warsaw, 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.
'Flexible risk management'
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told reporters last month 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 in late August 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, Sept. 4, 2020. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Poland reopens schools as virus fears ease
After a prolonged period of distance learning, Poland last month reopened most of its schools to students after the summer break ended and a new school year began.
The country's education ministry has rolled out a set of special guidelines for schools and students to follow in the face of the pandemic. These include compulsory hand washing after entering the school premises and frequent airing of the classrooms.
"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," Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski told reporters ahead of the new school year.
President says COVID-19 under control in Poland
President Andrzej Duda said last month that the coronavirus was under control in Poland, while also urging citizens to use caution and common sense ahead of a possible second wave of the pandemic.
“We can safely say that we are in control of the situation and managing to keep the pandemic in check,” Duda said after a special meeting with members of Poland’s government on September 4.
He told reporters that Poland’s coronavirus outbreaks were mainly linked to "workplaces and weddings," and that a major surge in infections was unlikely if people followed guidelines and exercised caution.
“Please be cautious, maintain social distancing and wear face masks,” Duda appealed.
President Andrzej Duda speaks after a Cabinet Council meeting with members of Poland's government in Warsaw on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Photo: Grzegorz Jakubowski/KPRP
Referring to concerns voiced by some parents after schools nationwide reopened to traditional in-person classes, Duda said that "not a single child" had died of coronavirus in Poland since the pandemic hit the country in early March.
The youngest coronavirus fatality so far was 18 years old and had "very serious" underlying conditions, Duda said at the time.
Vaccine in the spring?
The Polish health minister said last month that a vaccine against the coronavirus was likely to be available in the country next spring.
Niedzielski told reporters on September 18: “I think that there is a very high probability that we will have a vaccine in the spring, which will definitively end the pandemic."
Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski (centre) speaks at a news conference in Warsaw on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Polish experts announced in mid-September that they had developed a “prototype” of a homegrown vaccine against the coronavirus.
The vaccine is expected to be ready for use within the next six months, state broadcaster TVP Info reported on September 19.
Meanwhile, Polish biotechnology company Biomed Lublin said on September 23 it has come up with the “world's first effective drug” for COVID-19.
The drug, which uses plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients and from those who were infected without showing symptoms, has yet to be tested in clinical trials.
Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło
Thousand-plus COVID-19 cases a day in Poland ‘the new normal’
As people returned to offices and schools following the summer break, Poland began reporting rising numbers of daily COVID-19 cases.
The Polish health minister said on September 21 that the numbers were expected to grow in the days ahead.
“We must get used to seeing such infection rates,” Niedzielski told Polish Radio.
Coronavirus in Poland: A nursing home where several dozen residents and staff members have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, in Jędrzejów, some 200 km south of Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Krzysztof Świderski
Polish football club Pogoń Szczecin has said that more than 30 of its players, staff members and employees have become infected with the coronavirus. Photo: PAP/Marcin Bielecki
On Tuesday, September 29, Niedzielski announced planned new restrictions in areas most hit by the epidemic.
On Thursday, October 1, officials vowed to step up the battle against the coronavirus as infections hit a new daily high.
"We are dealing with an escalation of the pandemic,” said Niedzielski, adding that the country could see more than 2,000 new cases a day over the next two weeks.
In another move to curb the spread the virus, authorities are set to get tougher on people flouting safety rules, officials told reporters.
The health ministry's Kraska told Polish Radio that some people were not covering their mouths and noses in stores and shopping malls, so increasing the risk of infection.
Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info