Masks to remain mandatory in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies till March

Leszek Szymański/PAP

The obligation to wear masks in pharmacies, clinics and hospitals in Poland will be extended until at least the end of March 2023, the health minister has announced.

Adam Niedzielski explained that facemasks stem the spread not only of Covid-19 but also other diseases such as influenza and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus).

The minister also said the Covid-19 epidemiological situation was in line with his ministry's forecasts.

"We stated that we would not have any big autumn accumulation of infections and that there certainly would be no threat to the capacity of the healthcare system," Niedzielski said. "We forecast on the basis of our analyses that hospitalisations would be few and the course of Covid-19 would be milder.

"We're seeing at the moment that the number of hospitalisations related to Covid-19 has already fallen to below a thousand and the number of recorded cases is at a weekly average level of 2,500," Niedzielski continued. "Even adding people who test outside the official system and are not reported, the scale of infections does not represent a threat to the healthcare system."

He added that data on flu and other respiratory diseases were more alarming and pointed out that in the first week of November alone 100,000 cases or suspected cases of flu were recorded in Poland with more than 400 people hospitalised as a result.

"What we're forecasting at the moment is that we may have an acceleration of the epidemic in Poland at the turn of the year," the minister went on. "But a very dynamic acceleration should not be expected. Of course, it cannot be ruled out that a sub-mutation will occur beyond the immune range, but at the moment such a threat cannot be seen."

Niedzielsi also said that from the Ministry of Health's point of view, Covid-19 is not currently a major threat.

Asked whether the new year would see the obligation continued to wear facemasks in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, Niedzielski said masks were not just about Covid-19.

"There are few Covid-19 cases, but influenza and RSV are taking their toll," he said. "Keeping masks makes sense in this context, especially in clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, in medical facilities where sick people meet."

Asked whether, in light of the fact that the flu season runs from October to May with the peak of infections occurring from January to March, the obligation to wear facemasks in such places would remain in force during the first quarter of 2023, Niedzielski replied that, "for sure at least until the end of March the obligation to wear a mask will be maintained."