WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland reported a record 18,820 new coronavirus infections and 236 deaths on Wednesday, the health ministry said, as hospitals faced shortages, in some cases turning patients away, while mass protests against an abortion ruling continued.
The ministry said that as of Wednesday, COVID-19 patients occupied 13,931 hospital beds and were using 1,150 ventilators, compared with 13,291 and 1,078 respectively a day earlier.
Poland has seen widespread protests following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal last Thursday that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation. Many Poles will not show up to work on Wednesday, taking part in a sixth day of protest against the ruling.
The opposition and the protesters say the court has acted on behalf of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has in the past stepped back from efforts to tighten abortion rules. PiS denies that and calls for an end to the demonstrations.
“I have been repeating that this is a biological bomb that may result in more and more infections in coming days,” Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told public television TVP Info.
But critics say that PiS is inflaming an already tense mood in a divided society, after its leader and the country’s key decision maker, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said on Tuesday that the court ruling could not be reversed.
He also demanded that Poles defend the church, which opponents say is creating a new axes of conflict.
Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; editing by Catherine Evans, Larry King
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