WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland is facing an explosion of COVID-19 cases that may require drastic action, the health minister said on Wednesday, after more than 5,000 daily new infections were reported for the first time since May.
Central Europe has suffered a surge in COVID-19 cases over recent days, fuelling fears that vaccination rates that are lower than in the west of the continent could fan a damaging fresh wave of infections.
About 61% of adult Poles are fully vaccinated, below an EU average of just over 74%.
Poland is planning to make booster doses of the coronavirus vaccine available to all adults over the next few weeks, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
“Those over 18 who had their last dose at least six months ago will be able to get another dose,” he said in a Facebook post.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski warned that Poland had been hit by “an explosion of the pandemic” over the last two days. “We have increases from week to week of 85% and over 100%,” Niedzielski told a news conference.
He said daily cases could be “well above” 5,000 next week.
“We will want to observe if this trend continues for a few days, and maybe we will have to take drastic measures,” Niedzielski said, while adding that there was currently no discussion in government about imposing another lockdown.
Asked what he meant by “drastic” measures, Niedzielski said it would involve stricter enforcement of existing rules about wearing masks indoors and practicing social distancing.
Poland’s vaccination programme has slowed significantly in recent months, and lower case numbers have led many people to feel they can disregard the few restrictions still in place.
Niedzielski said both of these facts were contributing to the surge, as he urged Poles to get vaccinated and follow the rules, for example by wearing masks in enclosed spaces.
The country of around 38 million people reported 5,559 new coronavirus infections and 75 deaths on Wednesday.
While the infection figure was well below the peak of the third wave last spring when daily new cases topped 35,000, pushing the health service to the brink, it is more than double the number reported a week ago.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Poland has reported a total of 2,950,616 cases of COVID-19 and 76,254 deaths.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Mark Heinrich)