Polish hospitals under strain as coronavirus cases hit 2021 record

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff treat a patient inside of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) coronavirus disease ward at the Interior and Administration Ministry (MSWiA) hospital in Warsaw, Poland, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday just shy of 30,000, as the pandemic cripples hospitals in some parts of the country and the government mulls sending patients to different regions to help cope.

Poland has been hit very hard by a third wave of cases and a highly contagious variant of the virus first discovered in Britain. The regions of Silesia in the south and Mazowiecki, where the capital Warsaw is located, in particular have struggled.

The government has faced criticism for failing to support the healthcare system as cases rise, while it has called on the public to observe current restrictions more closely.

“Poland’s eyes are focused on Silesia,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Wednesday, adding that the government was considering moving patients from the south to the east, where more beds are available.

In Silesia, Tuesday data showed that of 305 available respirators, 257 were occupied, while 2,894 of 3,723 hospital beds were occupied.

Doctors said the whole country’s healthcare system was struggling, however.

“We are lacking beds everywhere, let’s not fool ourselves. This is an all-Poland situation,” immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski told Reuters.

On Wednesday the number of occupied beds rose to 26,511 from 26,075, while occupied ventilators rose edged up to 2,537. The ministry said it has 35,444 hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and 3,366 ventilators.

Poland reported 29,978 new infections on Wednesday and 575 daily coronavirus-related deaths, a record in 2021.

The country has reported 2.12 million confirmed cases overall and 50,340 deaths.

The government ordered theatres, shopping malls, hotels and cinemas to close last week as cases rose.

More restrictions loom ahead of the Easter holidays, typically marked by packed church services and family gatherings in the deeply Catholic country.

“We have to suffocate the third wave. That’s why we will announce new restrictions…that will be enforced during the week before and the week after the (Easter) holidays,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference on Wednesday.

Those restrictions are expected to be announced on Thursday.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Joanna Plucinska, Alicja Ptak and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Hugh Lawson)

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