- Government announces that all schools, preschools and nurseries will close from Monday due to the coronavirus. Museums and cinemas will also be shut down, while the health minister has called for the whole of society to quarantine itself.
- Mass gatherings have been cancelled, in response to which the Catholic church has called for more masses to be held in order to lower the number of attendees at each.
- As of Wednesday morning, there are 25 confirmed cases of the virus in Poland. One of those infected is the General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces.
“One must act quickly, in advance, wherever one can,” said the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, announcing the new measures at a press conference alongside the health, interior, family and labour, culture, education and higher education ministers.
“We are trying to stay ahead of the actions that are later copied by others. We want to slow down the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.”
From tomorrow, there will be no classes in schools. But parents can still leave their children there under the care of staff until the end of the week, to give them time to make childcare arrangements, added Morawiecki. But schools will close from Monday 16 March until at least Wednesday 25 March.
The prime minister also advised parents not to let children leave the house, “because children can easily infect others, they can unwittingly infect their grandparents”. It is better to take strong measures now than to regret not doing so later, he added.
Premier @MorawieckiM w #KPRM: Jest dla nas jasne, że #koronawirus może stać się bardzo groźny. Według @WHO może stać się to globalną pandemią. Trzeba działać szybko i z wyprzedzeniem. Wczoraj brałem udział w telekonferencji Rady Europejskiej. Polska stosuje bardzo dobrą strategię pic.twitter.com/8veKGzAx4Y
— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) March 11, 2020
“This is a time of quarantine of our entire society,” said the health minister, Łukasz Szumowski. “This is a time we should spend at home in isolation, let’s take this seriously.”
The culture minister, Piotr Gliński, also announced that from Thursday all cinemas, museums, opera houses and galleries would be closed.
There has been no government order to close universities because, under the law, it is the rectors of individual institutions who are responsible for such decisions. On Tuesday, Poland’s two highest ranked universities – the University of Warsaw and Kraków’s Jagiellonian University – both announced the cancellation of all lectures and other activities. Many others have now followed suit.
Some institutions will still require classes to take place virtually. The Pedagogical University of Kraków, for example, has cancelled all classes until 14 April, but has obliged all departments to make arrangements for them to take place “in electronic form” instead.
As we reported on Monday, among other measures already taken in response to coronavirus are:
- the implementation of sanitary checks at Poland’s borders with Germany and the Czech Republic
- exempting high-alcohol spirits from excise tax in order to use them as biocides
- state-run oil firm Orlen producing a million litres of hand sanitiser.
Since then, the government has also ordered that all mass gatherings should be cancelled. The latest casualty is Warsaw Beer Festival, which was due to take place on 26-28 March and attract around 20,000 people, but will now be postponed to a later date. Poland’s top-flight football league, the Ekstraklasa, will also play matches behind closed doors until further notice.
In response to the restructions on public gatherings, the head of Poland’s Catholic Episcopate has called for more masses to be held, which will ensure that each one is attended by fewer people. Closing churches, as has happened in Italy, is “unimaginable”, said Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki on Tuesday. “Just as hospitals treat illnesses of the body, the church is there to heal illnesses of the soul.”
As of Wednesday morning, there were 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Poland. One of those infected is the General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Jarosław Mika, who is now quarantined in hospital along with all the other passengers who returned from a conference in Germany on the same military flight as him.
Main image credit: Dawid Zuchowicz/Agencja Gazeta
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.