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World News

Poland ramps up health training as COVID-19 cases hit fresh records

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is ramping up training for nurses and could consider setting up military field hospitals for coronavirus patients, as daily reported cases hit a new record of 6,526 on Wednesday, officials said.

FILE PHOTO: People are tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-thru testing centre in Warsaw, Poland, October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Health authorities say Poland has enough hospital beds and respirators for now to tackle the pandemic but localised shortages cannot be ruled out.

The country of 38 million has recorded 141,804 confirmed coronavirus cases so far and 3,217 deaths, with the biggest cities of Warsaw and Krakow seeing fast increases.

As of Wednesday, COVID-19 patients occupied 6,084 hospital beds and were using 467 ventilators out of around 1,000 available overall, compared with 5,669 and 421 respectively a day earlier.

“We have a buffer,” Wojciech Andrusiewicz, a spokesman for the health ministry told reporters, “but we are distributing more equipment.”

Some doctors are warning, however, that Poland may run into shortages soon, and have called on the government to close cemeteries on Nov. 1 when millions of Poles visit family graves for All Saints’ Day.

Poland’s ruling nationalists have prided themselves on acting swiftly and containing the pandemic in the spring, when the government launched strict curbs on social life, closing schools and shopping malls, among other measures.

But the opposition and some doctors have accused the cabinet of not preparing the health system for a second wave and the spike in COVID-19 patients.

“I don’t have any good information. We are on the brink of disaster,” immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski told private radio RMF. He said Poland should be doing more testing, closing schools and supporting doctors in their fight against the pandemic. Instead, he said, it was trying to blame doctors for the difficult situation.

The government’s efforts to help contain the spread of the virus by ordering the nation to wear masks in public are running into difficulties in courts.

On Wednesday, a local court in the southern town of Gliwice ruled the order was illegal and annulled a fine levied against someone who had refused to wear a mask.

Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said on Twitter earlier this week that some doctors were refusing to join coronavirus teams.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki went into quarantine on Tuesday after coming into contact with a person who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, although his test came in negative, government officials said.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski said he had to quarantine as well.

Broadcaster Polsat News said Zygmunt Solorz, one of the country’s richest men and owner of the television station, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Bernadette Baum

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