WARSAW (Reuters) – Wearing masks outside will be compulsory across the whole of Poland from Oct. 10 and restrictions for schools may have to be tightened, the prime minister said on Thursday, after the country saw another record daily spike in new coronavirus cases.
Poland does not rule out introducing a state of emergency if cases continue to grow, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
Daily coronavirus cases jumped more than 40% on Thursday compared to the previous day. While authorities have sought to reassure the public that hospitals can cope doctors have warned the system could soon face serious difficulties.
“We have to slow the growth of this in the entire country … we are today a few steps away from a lack of beds and respirators,” Morawiecki told a news conference.
He said mandatory mask-wearing outdoors was the only way to avoid another total lockdown. “We can’t waste the good progress we’ve made in the last seven months,” he said.
Morawiecki, speaking without a mask, said restrictions for schools may have to be tightened and the government would make an announcement on Saturday.
Poland reported a new record of 4,280 daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, the Health Ministry said, up from the 3,003 reported on Wednesday. It also reported 76 coronavirus-related deaths, a new record.
Other central and eastern European countries are also facing sharp increases, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia both reporting record numbers of cases on Thursday.
Some Warsaw residents grudgingly accepted the new restrictions.
“This is really tough, I must admit, I keep uncovering my nose otherwise I start suffocating. Because of my age, we suffer, but if it is necessary we have to comply even though it restricts everything,” said Ewa Trzalkowska, 86, a retired ballet dancer living in Warsaw.
“I would even say it is some sort of enslavement, following all the rules. It certainly isn’t fun.”
In total, the country of 38 million has reported 111,599 cases of the coronavirus and 2,867 deaths.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Alan Charlish, Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Janet Lawrence)