Minister announces new pandemic restrictions

Niedzielski said the new personal restrictions would not apply to inoculated persons. Piotr Nowak/PAP

Poland will introduce a batch of new sanitary restrictions in connection with the appearance of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus, the Polish health minister announced on Monday.

Adam Niedzielski told a press conference that the new limitations were necessary to stem the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, said to have originated in South Africa.

Among the limitations, he named flight bans to seven countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which have been listed as high-risk countries by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Niedzielski said persons travelling to Poland from those countries and other non-Schengen states would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period, even if they possessed a negative coronavirus test.

Earlier on Monday, the Polish health ministry stated that people arriving to Poland who had been inoculated with EU-accepted vaccines would be exempt from quarantine.

Niedzielski also announced new limits at large gatherings such as weddings, as well at cinemas, cultural institutions, churches, restaurants, sport facilities, swimming pools and aquaparks.

Under the new restrictions, all of those institutions would be limited to 50-percent capacity instead of the present 75-percent ceiling, Niedzielski added.

Niedzielski also said current personal restrictions in gyms, fitness centres, museums and gaming halls would be changed from one person per 10 square metres of space to one person per 15 square metres of space.

On Monday, the health ministry wrote on Twitter that the one person per 15 sqm rule would also apply to shops and other commercial outlets.

Niedzielski said the new limits, which will be in force from December 1 to 17, were needed not only to weaken the spread of the Omicron virus, but to bring down current infection figures, which have been on a sharp rise under the current fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Niedzielski said the new personal restrictions would not apply to inoculated persons.

Niedzielski pointed out that he was pleased to see Poles showing greater interest in Covid-19 inoculation, which he attributed to the recent introduction of a third booster shot for fully-vaccinated persons.

Niedzielski also noted the government was striving to set up as many temporary country-wide Covid-19 clinics as possible in order to take some burden off the regular health service.

"We are constantly moving to open temporary hospitals. (This - PAP) is, in fact, the best remedy for taking some weight off the health service," he told journalists.