Europe

Polish president tests positive for coronavirus as country faces surge in infections

Polish president Andrzej Duda during his visit to the PGE Narodowy stadium in Warsaw on 23 October. Source: AAP

It comes as Poland faces a surge in the COVID-19 epidemic, with new infections hitting a daily record of 13,632 on Friday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for COVID-19 and is subject to quarantine but is feeling good, presidential minister Blazej Spychalski announced on Saturday.

“The president yesterday was tested for the presence of coronavirus. The result turned out to be positive. The president is fine. We are in constant contact with the relevant medical services,” Mr Spychalski said on Twitter.

Mr Duda’s infection comes as the country imposed new restrictions on Saturday to curb the spread of the illness. Poland faces a surge in the COVID-19 epidemic, with new infections hitting a daily record of 13,632 on Friday.

Mr Duda, 48, holds a mainly ceremonial role, but has the power to veto legislation. He is an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“The president is a young man, I think that he will pass the infection without problems,” Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told private radio RMF.

He added that he expects that all people who had contact with Mr Duda in recent days will be quarantined. This should include tennis star Iga Swiatek, he said.

Fresh from her French Open win, Mr Swiatek met with Mr Duda on Friday when she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit for her achievements in sports and promotion of the country internationally.

From Saturday, more restrictions to curb the spread of the virus came into force, including a two-week shutdown of restaurants and bars. Schools will remain open, but only children up to third grade will attend, with older students moving to distance learning.

Poland turned its largest stadium into an emergency field hospital with 500 beds.
Poland turned its largest stadium into an emergency field hospital with 500 beds.

The government sent text messages on Saturday morning to Poles, urging them to stay home and help elderly people.

The government has also banned public gatherings of more than five people.

Despite this, thousands poured onto streets on Friday night to protest over a ruling on Thursday by the Constitutional Tribunal that imposes a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

The health ministry reported 153 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, taking the total toll to 4,172. Poland has reported a total of 228,318 cases.

The healthcare system has begun to buckle under the weight of mounting infections, forcing the government to set up field hospitals.

The ruling nationalists have faced criticism in recent days from the opposition that the country is not prepared enough for the second coronavirus wave. Recent opinion polls have shown a drop in support for both PiS and Mr Duda.

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