Poland reports record numbers of coronavirus cases during weekend

Poland reports record numbers of coronavirus cases during weekend
A patient being admitted to Bródno Hospital, Poland, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw June 8, 2020

Poland recorded 576 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on Saturday and 575 on Sunday, the two highest daily case numbers since the pandemic began in early March, the health ministry said during the weekend. 

Poland has lifted most restrictions imposed throughout March and April to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. The weekend spike in the number of new cases has now led to questions about the efficiency of Poland’s efforts to contain the pandemic.

Led by Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling coalition of the United Right is under pressure, however, to reopen the economy, which is set to contract 4%-5% in 2020. The government has launched a fiscal package equal to around 13% of GDP to ease the impact of the pandemic. The central bank has cut the interest rate by 140bp to just 0.1% and has to date purchased sovereign bonds worth nearly 4% of GDP.

The spike in the number of cases is worrying, some experts claim. “Lifting of the restrictions is incomprehensible and irresponsible,” professor Andrzej Matyja told opposition-leaning private broadcaster TVN on Sunday.

On top of ending the obligation to wear masks when outside and removing customer limits in stores, the presidential campaign is in full swing in Poland, with candidates holding rallies that attract crowds. 

Footage from the weekend rallies held by the incumbent President Andrzej Duda and his main rival, mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski, showed little or no social distancing during the events.

Poland had 26,651 coronavirus cases, including 1,157 deaths, as of Sunday.  

Most weekend cases were in Upper Silesia, where a coronavirus outbreak has been underway in the region’s coal mines, and in an ice cream factory in the town of Dzialoszyn, south-central Poland. 

“The peak of the pandemic could still be ahead of us … It could happen shortly before or on the day of the election in three weeks because that is how long it takes for the COVID-19 symptoms to show,” Matyja said.

The government cancelled the presidential election on May 10 in the wake of disagreements within the ruling coalition over the safe handling of the vote in which some 30mn Poles are eligible. 

Duda leads the polls but Trzaskowski has been seen closing in on him recently. A potential run-off vote could be very close with just 2.2pp separating the two, a poll by Estymator showed on June 7.