Of the new cases confirmed on Thursday, 1,984 were in the central region of Mazowieckie, which includes the national capital Warsaw.
Meanwhile, 1,173 new infections were reported in the southern coal mining region of Silesia.
The northern province of Pomorskie, which is home to the Baltic port city of Gdańsk, had the third-highest number of new infections confirmed by officials on Thursday, at 1,112.
The latest deaths in Poland’s coronavirus outbreak are 252 people with pre-existing medical conditions and 34 who died directly because of COVID-19, the Polish health ministry said.
On Wednesday, Poland confirmed 372 deaths and 12,146 new coronavirus infections nationwide, compared with 247 deaths and 6,310 fresh cases a day earlier.
On November 25, the country reported its highest daily toll of 674 deaths related to the coronavirus.
On November 7, the Polish health ministry confirmed 27,875 new single-day cases, the most since the pandemic hit the country in early March.
13,818 in hospitals, 176,394 quarantined
The health ministry announced on Thursday morning that 13,818 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals nationwide, 1,375 of them on ventilators, with a further 176,394 people quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure.
Meanwhile, 1,397,342 people have now recovered from COVID-19 throughout the country, including 5,361 over the last 24 hours, the health ministry also said.
Stricter rules on face masks, border crossing
Poles will from Saturday no longer be able to use scarves, bandanas and plastic visors instead of masks to cover their face in public as the government sharpens COVID-19 rules amid a spike in infections.
Meanwhile, anyone crossing Poland’s southern border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia will have to go into quarantine unless a test carried out in the last 48 hours shows they do not have the coronavirus.
In another move announced by officials on Wednesday, a range of restrictions on public life will be reintroduced in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie region of northeastern Poland, where the level of infections has caused concern.
Hotels, shopping malls, cinemas, theatres, museums and swimming pools there will have to shut, while young schoolchildren in the region will have to return to remote classes.
Pandemic restrictions in the rest of the country will remain unchanged until at least March 14 following an easing of containment measures earlier this year, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Wednesday.
Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski. Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara
Amid signs of a letup in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Poland in the middle of January reopened schools for young children after a prolonged period of distance learning.
In a further easing of coronavirus curbs, shopping malls, museums and art galleries across the country were allowed to reopen earlier this month.
Meanwhile, restrictions on hotels, entertainment venues and outdoor sports areas including ski slopes were partially lifted on February 12.
A host of other restrictions on public life, including the closure of restaurants and gyms, remain in place, following an announcement earlier this month by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki seen on a screen during a virtual news conference this month. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Public health officials warned last week that the daily number of new COVID-19 infections in the country was starting to rise again in a worrying new trend.
Health ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz declared last Friday that a third wave of the epidemic had started in Poland.
Under restrictions announced in October, pubs, restaurants and cafes throughout the country remain closed and are only allowed to provide take-aways and delivery orders.
Beginning October 10, people must cover their mouths and noses when outdoors in public places as well as in most indoor environments nationwide.
Temporary hospitals, remote patient monitoring
In an effort to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, the country has set up a network of temporary hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, some of those testing positive for COVID-19 are monitored remotely from their homes using special finger-clip devices called pulse oximeters, under an initiative announced by the country’s health minister at the end of November.
Vaccinations approach 3 million
A 52-year-old Warsaw hospital nurse on December 27 became the first Pole to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced in December that his government had secured vaccines for the Polish population from six leading international drug makers.
The Polish health minister said this month that around 6.7 million coronavirus vaccine doses were expected to reach the country by the end of March, including 4.8 million from Pfizer/BioNTech, 1.15 million from AstraZeneca, and 744,000 from Moderna.
Poland hopes to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent of its population against the coronavirus by the autumn, Niedzielski told the media on Monday.
Officials have previously said that more than 3 million people are expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19 throughout the country in the first quarter of this year.
Frontline healthcare workers are first in line to be inoculated, followed by nursing home residents, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions, teachers, police, and soldiers.
Poland last month began administering COVID-19 vaccines to citizens over 70.
Citizens over 80 have been able to sign up for COVID-19 shots since January 15. On January 22, registration opened to those in the 70+ age group.
Poland last month began administering COVID-19 vaccines to citizens over 70. People can send a text message to sign up for a shot. They can also go online to register or call a 989 vaccination hotline to schedule an appointment. Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło
Meanwhile, younger Polish adults can put their names on a waiting list for a vaccine, but for now there is no timeline on when they will be able to receive a shot.
On February 12, Poland began vaccinating teachers. Over half a million teachers have signed up for the shots and more than 146,000 had been vaccinated by Tuesday, according to officials.
Almost 6,000 vaccination sites are available to citizens as the country rolls out its COVID-19 inoculation programme, according to the prime minister's top aide, Michał Dworczyk, who is spearheading the drive.
The government last week announced a plan to roll out 16 mobile COVID-19 vaccination units in an effort to broaden the public's access to coronavirus shots.
Poland originally announced plans to spend PLN 3 billion (EUR 675 million, USD 820 million) on more than 60 million doses of coronavirus vaccines under a national inoculation program adopted by the government.
Dworczyk told reporters this month that Poland had ordered almost 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in total, enough to inoculate 58 million people, more than its population of around 38 million.
As of Thursday, a total of 2,990,683 coronavirus vaccine shots had been administered nationwide, including almost 1.96 million first doses and more than 1 million second doses, according to data released by officials.
'Let's get vaccinated'
At the end of December, the government launched a media campaign called Szczepimy Się (Let's Get Vaccinated) to encourage Poles to get COVID-19 shots.
The immunization effort began after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on December 21 recommended conditional approval for a coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech for use across the European Union.
The decision by the EU regulator was subsequently greenlighted by the bloc’s executive, the European Commission.
The first vaccines for the coronavirus were administered in Poland on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, as part of a coordinated rollout across the European Union. Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski
The European Union, of which Poland is part, has struck deals to secure vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, CureVac, Sanofi-GSK, and Johnson & Johnson.
The Polish prime minister last week called on the bloc's executive, the European Commission, to use its "economic power and "the strongest instruments" to ensure the timely execution of agreements by international drug makers amid delays in vaccine supplies.
"Europe is a powerful market that has been hard hit by COVID-19," Morawiecki said. "Every day we are all paying a huge price for displaying a weakness toward drug makers. We can't stand aside and watch the next waves of infections engulf us."
He added: "The Polish vaccination system is prepared to vaccinate the country's entire adult population quickly. But we need the right amount of vaccine doses. The EU must demonstrate it can effectively take care of the interests of its citizens. What is at stake is not only the credibility of European institutions, but the lives and health of the Polish people and millions of Europeans."
W Europie trwa szczepionkowy wyścig z czasem. Dziś nie mamy ani chwili do stracenia. Koncerny farmaceutyczne muszą...
Posted by Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday, February 18, 2021
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski
The European Medicines Agency on January 6 gave the green light to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the second shot it approved as countries stepped up inoculation efforts amid fears of more contagious strains of the coronavirus.
The European medicines regulator on January 29 approved the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine for people over the age of 18, the third coronavirus shot to be cleared for use in the EU.
The European Medicines Agency said on February 12 it had launched a real-time review of CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine to speed up potential approvals.
The regulator said its human medicines committee would review data from ongoing trials of the German biopharmaceutical firm's vaccine until there is enough clinical data for approval.
CureVac is also working with Britain's GSK to develop a COVID-19 vaccine from next year that could target several variants with one shot, as new, more contagious mutations of the coronavirus have emerged, the Reuters news agency reported.
The European Medicines Agency is expected to issue an opinion by mid-March on whether to approve US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine under a speedy review.
Johnson & Johnson said last week it was ready to start distributing the vaccine across the EU in the second quarter of 2021.
Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info, Reuters