Poland extends COVID-19 curbs amid fears of Easter bounce

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WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will extend COVID-19 restrictions until April 18, its health minister said on Wednesday, as the country struggles to cope with a third wave of infections that authorities fear could be aggravated by people mixing at Easter.

Like its central European neighbours, Poland has seen its health service pushed to the brink by spiralling COVID-19 case numbers. Some regions have come close to running out of ventilators and the government has imposed tougher restrictions on daily activity nationwide to try and contain the contagion.

“We have a difficult situation in hospitals – yesterday over 34,500 beds were occupied and over 3,300 ventilators were in use. These levels, which are close to 80%, are dangerous levels,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.

“…We have decided that the restrictions in place will be extended by a period of over a week…The extended safety regulations will be in place until April 18.”

Niedzielski said that the consequences of increased mobility during the Easter weekend would be evident in next week’s statistics, and that an increase in case numbers was possible.

Kindergartens, shopping centres, hotels, cinemas and theatres will remain closed under the restrictions.

Poland’s nationalist government drew praise for its swift action during the first wave of infections in 2020, but has come in for mounting criticism over its handling of the later stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week a surprise overnight decision to widen eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines triggered the crash of an online registration system, just as new infections soared to a new daily high.

In Poland, 12.1% of the population have so far received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Reuters COVID-19 Vaccination tracker. here

Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Koper, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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