Poland announces nationwide restrictions amid record coronavirus cases surge

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WARSAW, March 17 (Reuters) – Poland announced on Wednesday it was introducing nationwide restrictions as the daily tally of new coronavirus cases reached the highest level this year.

Poland has been implementing regional lockdowns in an effort to contain a surge in infections driven by a highly contagious variant first discovered in Britain, but the government had said a national lockdown was possible if case numbers kept rising.

Theatres, shopping malls, hotels and cinemas will be closed from Saturday until after the Easter holidays, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference. Schools will also move entirely to online learning, even for the youngest children.

“We no longer have the ability only to bring forward regional restrictions. The only way forward right now is to broaden these restrictions to all of Poland,” Niedzielski said.

“If this move does not result in easing the pandemic, or at least in slowing down the third wave, the next steps would be a typical lockdown… in which we would be closing absolutely everything,” Niedzielski said.

Around 52% of new infections are linked to the variant first discovered in Britain, he added.

Warsaw residents appeared resigned over the latest move.

“I believe the lockdown is needed. We have the situation that we have… We don’t have a choice, we just have to get through it,” said Andrzej Maciejski, a 56-year-old lawyer.

“It’s nothing new to me because we’ve already spent two holidays like this – Easter and Christmas. Unfortunately.”

The country of 38 million people recorded 25,052 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a significant increase on the previous 2021 record of 21,049 reported on Saturday. There were 453 deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday.

In total, Poland has so far reported 1,956,974 cases and 48,032 deaths. (Reporting by Alan Charlish, Agnieszka Barteczko, Anna Koper, Joanna Plucinska, Kuba Stezycki and Pawel Florkiewicz; editing by Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

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