Poland announces new strategy to contain COVID-19

Poland announces new strategy to contain COVID-19
A pre-COVID Christmas in Warsaw. Decoration on Piwna Street in the Old Town in 2018.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw November 24, 2020

Poland’s right-wing government announced a new plan to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on November 21.

The plan, dubbed “100 days of solidarity”, assumes retail will reopen under a strict sanitary regime ahead of Christmas, starting from November 28. That is in line with the government’s long-time plan to address the threat of the coronavirus to public health while avoiding a new lockdown, which would cripple the economy.

Poland has been going through a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths even though the figures have begun levelling off recently in the effect of restrictions introduced in early November.

There were 15,002 new coronavirus cases in Poland on Monday, the health ministry said in its daily report; 156 people died. But the number of new cases is not entirely credible, given Poland’s limited testing capacity. There only were 27,400 tests carried out on Monday with experts warning that tens of thousands of people with the coronavirus go undetected, possibly spreading the pathogen.

To date, 876,333 people have contracted COVID-19 in Poland. The figure includes 13,774 deaths.

The government advised Poles to skip Christmas travel and said limits on travel could be introduced to enforce that. 

Schools will remain closed until the end of the year, after which a nationwide winter break will take place from January 4 to January 17. At the same time, the government said hotels would be closed – except for people travelling on business - thus thwarting attempts by families to travel during the break.

After criticism that a de facto travel ban during the winter break would ruin Poland’s ski resorts, the government hinted on Monday that ski lifts might open – even though the officials did not offer details on how that would work vis-à-vis closed hotels and other accommodation services.

Starting on December 28 at the earliest, Poland could go back to the colour-coded zones – red, yellow and green – depending on a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases, with yellow and green zones removing, respectively, some and nearly all restrictions, the government said.

Poland could go into lockdown if there are 27,000-29,000 new cases a day on a seven-day average, the government also warned.

Poland’s economy is forecast to go through only a mild recession in 2020, with GDP falling no more than 4%, most analysts say. If the pandemic spins out of control in the final weeks of the year – which are crucial for consumer spending because of Christmas – the expectations are likely in for a revision.