March 23, 2020 / 7:49 AM / 16 days ago

Poland may impose more curbs on citizens amid fears of jump in coronavirus cases

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland may impose further constraints on citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus given the likelihood of a sharp increase in the number of infections this week, senior government officials said on Monday.

A couple stroll on Dluga street in the usually crowded Main Town in Gdansk, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Poland, March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Authorities have already shut schools, cinemas and theatres limited public gatherings to no more than 50 people, banned the entry of foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”, recommending Poles stay at home.

“The government is considering various options regarding the epidemic situation, including launching other limitations beyond those taken to date,” government spokesman Piotr Muller told public radio, without providing details.

Some government officials said that too many Poles have not been complying with appeals for social-distancing, with many venturing outdoors to enjoy balmy early spring sunshine.

“In my opinion, in a situation where the weather is improving, with more people going outside..., it will be necessary to launch (further) restrictions to help us preserve the low growth curve of infections,” Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin told public radio.

Poland, with the largest economy and population in the east of the European Union, has reported 649 coronavirus cases to date, including seven deaths.

The cabinet was expected to discuss further restrictions on Monday as Poland expects the number of infections to jump to a few thousand by the end of the week, Gowin said.

“I don’t see any sign of optimism,” Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski told radio RMF FM. Michal Dworczyk, chief of staff to the prime minister told RMF that Poland faced problems with the availability of masks and protective suits.

While Dworczyk repeated that at the moment there was no reason to delay the presidential election set for May 10, Szumowski said would issue a recommendation next month on whether to proceed with the vote.

“It depends on the situation in hospitals. It depends on how many people will be able to leave their homes. This is the kind of data on which I could recommend some things,” he said.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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