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COVID-19 WATCH

Poland extends border closure, mandates face coverings

Agence France-Presse

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Poland’s government on Thursday extended lockdown measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping borders closed to foreigners and making face coverings mandatory in public spaces from next week.

“The evolution of the pandemic has been milder in Poland than in Italy or France… we have an opportunity to bring the spread of coronavirus under control,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Warsaw.

Flanked by his health and education ministers, Morawiecki said Poland’s March 13 decision to close borders to foreigners would be extended until May 3.

All stores except groceries and pharmacies would remain shut until April 19, he said, adding that the suspension of schools, international flights and rail travel would be extended to April 26th.

Restaurants are offering only takeaway service and public gatherings are limited to two people, under threat of fines of up to 30,000 zloty (6,600 zloty, $7,200).

The government has yet to postpone a presidential election scheduled for May 10, despite growing pressure from the public, opposition parties, and medical experts.

Morawiecki’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has backed controversial legislation allowing a universal postal vote, criticized by the opposition and legal experts as unconstitutional.

PiS-allied President Andrzej Duda currently outpaces all other candidates by a large margin and may see him clinch victory in the first round of voting on May 10.

Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski announced on Thursday that Poles would be required to “cover their faces when venturing outside the home” as of next Thursday, but added that this “does not necessarily mean wearing a mask”.

The Czech Republic and Austria claim their strategy to requiring masks in public spaces has slowed the rate of COVID-19 infection.

Austria is considering easing coronavirus lockdown measures from next week.

Poland, an EU member of 38 million people, has confirmed 5,341 cases of coronavirus, including 164 deaths.

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