Poland to impose nationwide lockdown from Dec. 28 to Jan. 17

Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-18 01:19:51|Editor: huaxia

WARSAW, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Polish government announced on Thursday a nationwide lockdown from Dec. 28 to Jan. 17 in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shopping malls are to be closed except for shops selling essential items and pharmacies. Hotels, which are already banned from receiving tourists, can no longer host guests on business trips, and the country's skiing resorts will also be obliged to shut down.

The authorities will also enforce a ban on travel between cities from 7 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. on Jan. 1. New Year's Eve celebrations must be held indoors with a maximum of five persons per household. During the school holidays, children below the age of 16 are not allowed to leave their homes without adult supervision.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said at a press conference on Thursday that the measures are needed to fight a third wave of coronavirus.

The number of daily confirmed COVID-19 infections in Poland rose from below a thousand in October to around 28,000 in early November. The daily number stood at 11,953 on Thursday and the total number of confirmed infections was 1,171,854. Since the start of the pandemic, 24,345 people have succumbed to the virus.

"We have an almost two-month-long exhausting fight against the second wave of the pandemic behind us," Niedzielski said. "It's important to note that we have not returned to the around 1,000 daily mark before that wave. The wave may have slowed down, but it has done so to a level of around 10,000 per day."

Such infection levels, he added, pose a risk to Poland's healthcare capacity, which is supplemented by emergency medical facilities, including a field hospital set up at the end of October in the National Stadium, a major sports arena, in Warsaw.

He said that the lockdown was also inevitable due to the upcoming vaccination program, which the Polish government wants to initiate in January.

Poland's lockdown is the latest in a series of measures taken by European countries to mitigate a projected spike in COVID-19 cases during the upcoming holiday season. Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania have introduced full lockdowns, while others strengthened their restrictions.

The European Commission announced earlier in the week that vaccinations can commence throughout the European Union on Dec. 27, with jabs supplied from production sites in Belgium and Germany. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that an expert panel will convene on Monday to evaluate the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech. It remains up to individual countries to organize their own vaccination programs.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Dec. 8, there were 214 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 52 of them were in clinical trials. Enditem