New strategy to combat COVID-19 pandemic announced; infection rate slowing

The minister declared that some hospital wards, such as those for cardiology, psychiatry, oncology and paediatrics would be relieved from the obligation of treating COVID-19 patients in order to ensure proper medical care in these fields. Piotr Nowak/PAP

The health minister said on Tuesday that the COVID-19 pandemic was growing, however, the growth rate in new infections was slowing down. He also presented a new government strategy to fight the epidemic.

Minister Adam Niedzielski said that "Tuesday's daily count of new infections at 19,364 is a sign of a falling trend in the pandemic growth rate. This means that the COVID-19 pandemic has been growing but that it has also been rising at a slower rate." He also stated that these were positive signals.

"There is a chance, there is hope that the pandemic can be contained and, now, much depends on us, on our daily behaviour, on whether we observe these basic principles of social coexistence, (...) since the point is to social distance, wear a mask and, obviously, to disinfect our hands," the official stated.

The minister went on to say that the recent data should make us want to become more responsible, since this struggle can only be won thanks to our attitude and a shared sense of responsibility.

Speaking about the 3.0 strategy for the fight against the pandemic, Minister Niedzielski presented its new solutions, including the approval of antigen tests for the coronavirus, the monitoring of patients with non-severe coronavirus infection through the use of a pulse oximeter, additional payments for healthcare workers and an automatic quarantine for entire households of COVID-19-infected persons. He added that the 3rd edition of the strategy was available at the Health Ministry's website as of Tuesday.

The approved antigen diagnostic test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 can be carried out outside a lab and it is possible to obtain a result within 15 minutes. According to the minister, the new tests will be available at emergency wards, where obtaining a quick diagnosis is of key importance.

The automatic quarantine for entire households of COVID-19-infected persons is the second new solution envisaged in the 3.0 strategy. At present, there are over 500,000 people under quarantine in Poland.

The minister also announced that Poland will expand primary care for COVID-19 patients and there will be 10,000 beds in isolation wards. He explained that the government wants to establish "a model of the COVID-19 patient management pyramid," and that one of its elements is isolation wards for COVID-19 patients.

"We are recreating the base of isolation wards we had at the beginning of the pandemic, because in the spring and summer season we established a level of 6,000 beds in solitary wards, and we have already recreated it. At the moment, the plan for the nearest future is to reach 10,000 beds in isolation wards," the minister said.

He went on to say that these beds are designed to increase the possibility of discharging patients from COVID-19 hospitals, which provide the most intensive care for patients who are in the most serious condition.

Referring to the planned increase of wages in the healthcare sector, the minister said, "We appreciate and are grateful to the medical services for their daily work in the fight against the coronavirus" and that the government had decided to increase their wages. "So far, there has been a 50-percent increase, and now their current salaries will be doubled," Niedzielski stated.

The minister declared that some hospital wards, such as those for cardiology, psychiatry, oncology and paediatrics would be relieved from the obligation of treating COVID-19 patients in order to ensure proper medical care in these fields.

"What we are trying to do at this stage of the pandemic is not to affect the work of specialist hospitals, so that they can provide proper treatment," he said.