WARSAW (Reuters) – A variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain now accounts for 25% of the reported cases in Poland, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Friday.
“At the start of January, the share of the British variant was around 5% … Now, the most recent tests show that the share has been systematically growing and for the last 21 days we have almost 25%,” Niedzielski told a news conference.
The minister partly blamed the British variant for the situation in Poland’s north, which has reported a significantly higher rate of new cases than elsewhere in the country.
“The virus in the British version develops so fast as it is of course much more contagious,” he said, adding that the variant share was even as high as 70% in random tests.
Niedzielski said coronavirus restrictions would be extended by one week in the northeastern region of Warminsko-Mazurskie and would also be imposed in the northern Pomorskie region.
Poland’s healthcare system is under strain again and the minister said the government was reopening more temporary hospitals.
He also warned that next week the daily number of new coronavirus cases may rise to 18,000, or more, from 15,829 on Friday, but due to Poland’s ongoing vaccination programme the government’s decisions to ease restrictions would be bolder after the Easter holidays at the beginning of April.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper; Editing by David Clarke)