WARSAW (Reuters) – The party is over for Poles this holiday season with nightclubs set to close in the face of high COVID-19 case numbers, the government said on Tuesday, with a key exception – New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski announced a raft of new measures – including compulsory vaccinations for doctors, teachers and security personnel from March 1 – designed to curb a renewed spread of COVID-19.
While the number of new daily infections in the European Union’s largest eastern member state has stabilised, it remains at a high level and authorities fear that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge.
Nightclubs will be closed from Dec. 15 except for on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day when only a maximum 100 people will be allowed to enter if they are unvaccinated, with no limits on those who have been inoculated.
But nightclub DJs said the restrictions would still unfairly affect those who have been vaccinated.
“I’m guessing they’re locking down clubs to encourage vaccinations and to save Christmas. It’s just too bad they’re punishing the vaccinated,” said Ariel Bialski, a DJ who works under the pseudonym Heights Beats in Warsaw and around Poland.
But the health minister said the measures were necessary to force case numbers down.
“There are no signals of a clear downward trend, and… there is a risk that the Omicron mutation will appear,” Niedzielski told a news conference. “These two factors require us to take decisive action.”
Poland has reported no cases of Omicron as yet, but many other European countries have recorded cases of the new strain.
Niedzielski said the limit on the number of people allowed in public spaces such as restaurants and cinemas would be lowered to 30% of capacity, not including vaccinated people, from the current 50%. Businesses will be required to check customers’ certificates of vaccination.
Additionally, travellers from outside the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone will need to show a negative test result from Dec. 15 and schools will return to distance learning for periods just before and after the Christmas holiday.
Poland, a country of around 38 million, has so far reported 3,704,040 cases of COVID-19 and 86,205 deaths.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz; editing by Mark Heinrich)