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World News

Poland's daily coronavirus cases top 5,000 but schools stay open

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland announced new measures on Saturday to curb the coronavirus pandemic after reporting record infections for a fifth straight day, but it stopped short of introducing mandatory distance learning for schools.

FILE PHOTO: People are tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-thru testing centre in Warsaw, Poland, October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Seniors would now have special shopping hours every morning from 10am to noon, and care homes would receive an extra 38 million zlotys in government funding, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

However, Morawiecki said that there was no need to shut schools yet, after he had indicated the government might do so earlier this week.

“For today we don’t see the need to introduce mandatory distance learning,” Morawiecki said, adding the government would hold a weekly re-evaluation to decide if further restrictions were needed to curb the pandemic.

Ministry data showed that 28,300 tests for coronavirus were carried out in the last 24 hours with 5,300 confirmed cases.

Poland, a country of 38 million, has so far recorded 121,638 confirmed cases and 2,972 deaths. During the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, the highest daily new cases were in the hundreds.

Other central and eastern European countries are also facing sharp increases in infections, with the Czech Republic revealing a record 8,618 new cases on Saturday.

Restrictions announced on Thursday, including wearing masks outside at all times, went into effect on Saturday. The additional measures targeting seniors will go into force starting Oct. 15.

Morawiecki has previously not ruled out introducing a state of emergency if case numbers continue to climb.However, on Saturday he said the government was keen to protect the economy, avoiding another full lockdown.

There were street protests around the country on Saturday against the order to wear masks.

Polish authorities have sought to reassure the public that hospitals can cope with the rise in infections, but doctors have warned the system could soon face serious difficulties.

Poland’s Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told the news conference that the government was working to increase the number of available hospital beds and that it had signed a deal for 80,000 units of remdesivir, a drug used to treat COVID-19.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper, Editing by William Maclean, Clelia Oziel and Christina Fincher

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