March 13, 2020 / 7:07 PM / 4 months ago

Poland to close borders to foreigners, quarantine returnees

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will ban foreigners from entering the country from Sunday and impose a 14-day quarantine on its citizens returning home in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday.

“The state will not abandon (its citizens). However, in the current situation, we cannot allow ourselves to keep borders open to foreigners,” Morawiecki told a news conference.

Those with a residence permit in Poland will be also allowed to enter, he said. But no international inbound flights or trains would be allowed from 0000 CET on Sunday, except for some charter flights bringing Poles back from holidays.

Freight transport would not be affected, he said.

Morawiecki also said shopping malls would be closed from Saturday except for grocery shops, drugstores and some service outlets, but all shops outside of malls could operate normally.

Restaurants, bars and casinos would be shuttered, although food delivery would be allowed.

In staunchly Catholic Poland, the latest restrictions will also affect church services. Morawiecki said public gatherings would be allowed only if no more than 50 people were present.

Church authorities issued a statement late on Friday saying they would limit attendance in line with the restrictions.

Poland — central Europe’s most populous country — has confirmed 68 cases of coronavirus so far with one death.

While central Europe has fewer confirmed cases of the new virus than its western neighbors, the region’s governments have taken some of the swiftest steps to contain the spread, including curbing international travel and closing most schools.

Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Toby Chopra

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