Government extends red zone to 152 counties as killer virus sweeps across the country

The new restrictions come into force Saturday as Poland’s infection rate spirals out of control. Marcin Obara/PAP

The number of counties in the red zone has been increased to 152 from 38, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday after Poland reported the highest daily total of coronavirus infections.

The red zone covers, among others, 11 province capital cities, including Warsaw, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Kraków, Poznań and Łódź. All other counties remain in the yellow zone.

The administrative division of Poland includes 314 counties (powiats) and 66 cities with county status.

The red zones will include limits on the number of people in retail premises, a ban on wedding receptions and other gatherings and distance learning in schools, PM Mateusz Morawiecki has said.

The prime minister told a press conference that the number of people at retail premises will be capped at five per checkout, a ban will apply to events such as wedding receptions, and other gatherings will be limited to 10 people while middle and high schools will be taught remotely.

The number of counties in the red zone has been increased to 152 from 38, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday after Poland reported the highest daily total of coronavirus infections.

The red zone covers, among others, 11 province capital cities, including Warsaw, Gdansk, Gdynia, Krakow, Poznan and Lodz. All other counties remain in the yellow zone.

Morawiecki said the current situation is different from that in March and April as then the virus outbreaks were in hot-spots whereas currently infections are much more widespread. He said the spread of COVID-19 must be stemmed "at all costs," adding that the scale of the pandemic depended on the public's adherence to the new sanitary regime.

Restaurants allowed to function between 6 am and 9 pm, after which they will be takeaway only, a cap of gatherings at 25 and 'hybrid' teaching in middle and high schools were among the restrictions in 'yellow zones,' PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced on Thursday.

Swimming pools, aqua-parks and gyms will also be closed in 'Yellow zones,' which now cover the whole of the country apart from the 152 counties designated as 'red zones,' with stricter restrictions.

Morawiecki said travel by public transport would also be limited to 50 percent of seating capacity or 30 percent of total capacity in yellow zones.

The prime minister added that from October 19 there would be a limit on the number of people taking part in gatherings such as wedding receptions. The government Information Centre said the limit would be 20 people, with no dancing permitted. Other gatherings are limited to 25 people.

Middle and high schools will teach in 'hybrid' mode, mixing traditional and distance learning.

Sporting events will be held without spectators, the PM said.

Poland is avoiding a full lockdown and officials "want the economy to operate as broadly as possible" even as steps are taken to reduce social interaction, Morawiecki said.