Poland relaxes restrictions on retail, but keeps some sectors closed

Morawiecki said that "it is important to save hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs in the future, but it is (also important) to keep the infections growth rate in check." Marcin Obara/PAP

Poland will allow shopping centres to reopen from next Saturday but will keep restaurants, fitness clubs, cinemas, and theatres closed at least until December 27, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a press conference on Saturday.

The prime minister called upon society to maintain "a hundred days of solidarity" in order to contain the coronavirus epidemic. "We are starting a hundred days of solidarity that will help us survive the next few months as best as we can," he said.

Morawiecki said there was a chance that Poland could receive the first shipments of vaccines around January 18. "This horizon is required to quickly prepare the distribution and the process of vaccination. We working very hard on it today and as soon as the vaccine is available, we'll be ready to use it. But we need to survive until that day with the lowest possible number of infections and lost jobs," he said.

"Today we need to demand from ourselves much more than usual because the situation is so hard, because the coronavirus is a force of nature that no-one can fully predict and control," he said.

"We've been making an analysis concerning both our health and how to save the biggest possible number of lives as well as millions of jobs," the prime minister said, referring to the reopening of shopping centres.

At meetings with the government, retailers vowed to "keep the numbers of customers adequately low (...) to maintain the sanitary regime," Morawiecki said, but warned that outlets that fail to observe the strict standards would be shut down.

Before Christmas, the government will decide whether to reopen restaurants, fitness clubs, cinemas and theatres, which will remain closed until December 27, Morawiecki also said.

Despite appeals from the sectors, the government has decided to follow epidemiologists' advice and keep them closed, the prime minister said.

Morawiecki added that "it is important to save hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs in the future, but it is (also important) to keep the infections growth rate in check."

Schools will also remain closed until the Christmas break, which effectively lasts until January 3. The break will be immediately followed by two-week winter holidays for all regions of Poland, which will in effect keep students away from schools until January 17.

The uniform winter holiday dates are meant to reduce holiday trips, the prime minister said.

This is a departure from the standard of spreading out the school winter holidays between three different two-week sessions across the regions of the country, which is normally designed to avoid tourist traffic congestion.

"The winter holiday, which used to be spread across different provinces at different times to ensure the maximum activity in tourism and the economy, must wrapped up into a single period in 2021 to make the activity as little as possible, to avoid booking trips, travelling, to stay at home and to make mobility as low as possible," Morawiecki said.