WARSAW (Reuters) – The Polish parliament postponed an emergency debate on Tuesday on new rules to boost the number of medics available to treat COVID-19 cases, as Poland reported its second steepest daily rise in the number of cases since the start of the pandemic.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party wants to launch financial incentives for doctors treating COVID-19 patients and make hiring physicians more flexible.
It also wants to make wearing face masks in public legally binding, amid reports that courts have been striking down fines issued by the police, citing faulty legislation.
However, opposition centrists said the new rules could force women doctors to join COVID-19 teams shortly after giving birth, and appealed to PiS to clarify the conditions under which medics would be required to work.
Poland reported 9,291 new infections on Tuesday, the second highest daily figure after last Saturday’s 9,622 cases.
Doctors have urged PiS to provide more support for the healthcare system after local media reports of patients dying when ambulances couldn’t find a hospital to admit them.
An emergency parliamentary sitting was postponed until Wednesday after the opposition objected to being shown draft legislation only late on Monday.
“It was impossible for responsible opposition to prepare sufficiently,” Cezary Tomczyk, who heads the parliamentary caucus of the biggest opposition party, Civic Coalition.
The opposition says PiS wasted time in the summer focusing on a presidential election campaign ahead of a July 12 ballot instead of preparing for a second wave of the pandemic.
PiS accuses the opposition of politicising efforts to tackle the virus.
“If you can’t help, at least don’t hamper,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski tweeted in response to the opposition’s motion to delay the parliamentary discussion.
The country of 38 million has now recorded 192,539 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,721 deaths.
The health ministry said that as of Tuesday COVID-19 patients occupied 8,962 hospital beds and were using 725 ventilators, up from 8,375 and 672 respectively a day earlier.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones)