WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland on Friday reported a new daily record of 132 coronavirus-related deaths and counted 7,705 new confirmed cases, amid fears the pandemic is testing the country’s supply of hospital beds and ventilators.
The government urged Poles to travel outside of the country only if absolutely necessary, following a daily record of 8,099 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday.
“We are issuing a recommendation to our compatriots for them to consider if they must travel across borders, if this is absolutely necessary for familial or professional reasons,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told a news conference.
Authorities on Thursday introduced new restrictions, including closing all gyms and pools and placing limits on the size of weddings or banning them altogether in some regions.
The government has said that it is trying to avoid a total lockdown, but further restrictions are not ruled out if cases keep increasing.
A number of major cities, including the capital Warsaw, have been marked as red zones, where the strictest limits apply.
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who was a presidential candidate for Poland’s main opposition grouping, Civic Coalition, said the government wasn’t doing enough to coordinate with cities and regions.
“The situation is dramatic and very difficult and today regional governments are doing everything (possible) to cope with it. We are ready to be a red zone, but we call (on the government) to consult and coordinate with regional governments,” Trzaskowski told a news conference.
He added that the decision for most high schools to switch to mandatory distance learning in red zones was good, but he asked for the government to make it easier for primary schools, in consultation with sanitary services, to also provide distance or hybrid learning options, especially for older grades.
“We all know that primary schools are also a source of infection,” he said.
The continuing climb in deaths comes amidst fears of a shortage of medical personnel as well as equipment. As it stands, 6,980 hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and 540 ventilators are in use, according to the health ministry.
Almost 51,000 tests were carried out in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.
The medical community has criticised the Polish government for not doing enough to prevent the second wave of the pandemic, which has hit Poland and the region much harder than the first wave did.
A recent survey carried out by state pollster CBOS said around 43% of Poles negatively assessed the government’s efforts in fighting the pandemic in October, compared to 25% in May and June.
The survey also showed that 32% of Poles felt the restrictions weren’t strict enough in October, compared to 27% in August.
Poland now has 157,608 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,440 deaths.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper, Alicja Ptak and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Toby Chopra)