Poland’s prime minister has outlined a “middle of the road” strategy of defending people’s health and lives while also protecting the economy and jobs in the country’s fight against COVID-19
Mateusz Morawiecki said the policy rejected the approaches of those playing down the danger posed by the pandemic, as well as of those calling for another lockdown.
“Our strategy is to structure social and economic life in a way that will allow us to continue to learn, work and live without locking down the economy, but at the same time to break the transmission belt of infection,” Morawiecki said.
But he later said he would like all of Poland to be made a “red zone” starting Saturday, which would mean, among others, a ban on social gatherings including wedding parties, limits on number of customers in shops and on restaurant opening hours.
The decision is to be taken Thursday, he said on Polsat News TV.
On Wednesday, Poland registered a record of over 10,000 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to almost 203,000 in a country of some 38 million.
Speaking to lawmakers during a parliamentary debate on special anti-COVID-19 legislation, Morawiecki said the government was preparing for long months, “hopefully not years,” of struggle before the pandemic can be brought under control.
The number of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients is being raised from some 17,000 now to 30,000, while Warsaw’s National Stadium and conference halls in large cities are being turned into temporary hospitals. Over 2,000 ventilators remain available.
But experts say there may not be enough medical personnel to operate them. Especially trained anesthesiology nurses are in short supply.
Physical therapy centers for convalescents are to open in many regions, and special care is to be offered to the elderly to allow them to stay safely home and avoid exposure to the virus.
The lawmakers were debating proposals to increase funds for medics involved in treating COVID-19 patients, and to temporarily exempt them from legal responsibility for mistakes in treatment.
The decisions come at a time when opinion polls show shrinking support for the right-wing government.
With the return to schools and universities being linked with the recent sharp spike in infections, the government wants all primary schools to switch to remote learning, and plans to adopt a mixed system for older students.
Earlier this month all of Poland was declared a yellow zone, where masks must be worn in all public outdoor places and social distancing observed. Morawiecki insisted it was crucial to abide by these requirements.
Fourteen among Poland’s more than 130 Roman Catholic bishops have been reported as infected and a senior bishop died this week. A spokesman for the Episcopate, Mgr. Leszek Gesiak, said the source of the infections was not clear as not all of them them took part in a plenary meeting this month. The bishops were criticized for taking a group photo there without masks.
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