WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland said it would enforce restrictions more strictly as it reported a daily record of 58 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, as well as sharp increases in the number of ventilators and hospital beds being used by COVID-19 patients.
The country reported 2,236 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, close to Saturday’s record of 2,367. Poland, which has a population of 38 million, has reported 104,316 cases overall and 2,717 deaths, much lower than many other European countries.
“Only those with a medical certificate from a doctor can choose not to wear a mask where it is mandatory … any person who doesn’t wear a mask (and doesn’t have a certificate) will face the harshest of punishments,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.
He said there would be a ban on using some venues for dancing and new distancing rules to prevent mass gatherings.
The ministry said that as of Tuesday there were 263 ventilators and 3,719 hospital beds devoted to COVID-19 patients, compared with 141 and 2,399 respectively a week ago.
“This is very disturbing,” Deputy Heath Minister Waldemar Kraska told private television broadcaster Polsat News.
Commenting on reports that Poland is running out of remdesivir, Kraska said some hospitals did not have the COVID-19 drug.
The health ministry plans to increase the number of hospital beds for COVID patients and wants to open more hospitals to treat only COVID-19.
Poland introduced strict lockdown measures quickly during the early stages of the pandemic, but the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party wants to avoid another economically damaging lockdown and has introduced targeted measures in the worst affected places.
The biggest spike in new cases on Tuesday was reported in central Poland, increasing the risk that Warsaw will face tighter restrictions.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Alicja Ptak; Writing by Joanna Plucinska and Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Alison Williams, Susan Fenton and Giles Elgood)