WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will shut kindergartens, hair salons and limit church service attendance from Saturday in response to the “most difficult moment” of the coronavirus outbreak, its prime minister said, as it set another record for daily cases.
Mateusz Morawiecki said the health service was reaching the limits of its capacity, and that restricting citizens’ mobility and business activity was essential to contain the virus’s spread.
“Poland today is in the most difficult moment of the pandemic in 13 months,” he told a news conference.
Along with its regional neighbours, Poland was spared the worst of the pandemic’s first wave, but has faced a sharp spike in third wave cases, which hit a daily peak of 34,151 according to data released on Thursday.
Morawiecki said further restrictions were not impossible if the situation worsens over the next two or three weeks and that mandatory quarantining could be introduced for arrivals at Poland’s southern border.
The government has blamed the more contagious variant of the virus first identified in Britain for the surge in cases, but critics point to delayed restrictions, citizens tired of new rules and limited government support for the healthcare system.
“What’s terrible is that in this most difficult moment, you are playing with the life and health of Poles,” The head of the opposition Civic Coalition grouping, Borys Budka, told a news conference on Thursday in a comment addressed at Morawiecki.
Poland has reported 2,154,821 coronavirus cases and 50,860 deaths, according to official figures. There are 36,231 available hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, of which 27,118 are occupied.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and John Stonestreet)