The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Poland today exceeded 1,000 for the first time since May, as the country continues to experience a rise in infections amid a fourth wave of the pandemic. The daily figure is likely to reach around 5,000 by the end of October, says the health ministry.
The health minister, Adam Niedzielski, has previously said that discussions on imposing new restrictions would begin when the 1,000 barrier was reached. However, after today’s figure of 1,234, he said that the time for “drastic decisions” has not yet come.
The number of cases is 40% higher than on the same day a week ago. The weekly rolling average of daily cases has now reached 854, which is also the highest level since May. Poland’s infection rate still remains significantly below the European Union as a whole, though it also tests less than most other countries.
Today’s number of Covid-related deaths, 22, is the highest in more than three months. The number of patients in Covid beds in hospitals is also rising, exceeding 1,500 today.
Speaking on Radio Plus this morning, Niedzielski noted that the rise matched the government’s forecasts made earlier this month. “From my point of view, these figures are not yet such levels of threat to public health and the efficiency of the health care system for us to make any drastic decisions,” he said.
Last month, the government outlined plans for a traffic-light system, implementing restrictions within each of Poland’s 380 individual administrative districts (powiaty) based on local infection and vaccination rates.
Niedzielski today said that there are currently three districts in the whole of Poland – all in the eastern Lublin province – that should be in the “yellow” zone, based on the government’s criteria.
But “a much more important parameter than infections at the moment is the occupancy or capacity of the health care system”, he pointed out, noting that fewer people are being hospitalised and placed on ventilators than at an equivalent stage last year.
“We are aware that vaccinated people should not bear the costs of the irresponsibility of unvaccinated people,” Niedzielski added. “This means that the level of tolerance for the number of infections is much larger.”
Lublin province also currently has the highest occupancy rate of beds for Covid patients, at around 50%, and, along with Podlasie province, the highest number of deaths, health ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz told TVP.
These regions of eastern Poland also have some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates, although it is communes in Podkarpackie and Małopolska provinces that are at the bottom of the league table, with just over 20% of people fully vaccinated.
Overall, more than 51% of Poland’s population are now fully vaccinated, compared to over 62% across the European Union as a whole. The Polish government has tried various means to boost the rate with limited success, including a lottery for vaccinated people.
On the right, the % of people fully vaccinated against covid in individual counties in Poland. On the left, current covid infection rates (via @PiotrekT: https://t.co/EiwsKSvCFz) pic.twitter.com/OMR15zJqOj
— Daniel Tilles (@danieltilles1) September 29, 2021
Ben Koschalka is a translator and senior editor at Notes from Poland. Originally from Britain, he has lived in Kraków since 2005.