Poland relaxes some epidemic restrictions

Morawiecki said that the "deeper sense" of the government's restrictions was that they bought time to combat the epidemic and helped save lives. Mateusz Marek/PAP

From April 20 the government will relax some restrictions introduced in connection with the coronavirus epidemic, PM Mateusz Morawiecki said at a Thursday press conference with Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski.

He said, however, that the current ban on public gatherings and mass events will remain in force and Poland's borders will remain closed until at least May 3.

Morawiecki said that as of Monday parks and forests will be reopened to the public, also eased will be shopper limits in grocery markets, with 4 persons per 1 cash register allowed in shops up to 100 sqm and 1 person per 15 sqm in markets over 100 sqm.

The 1 person per 15 sqm rule will also apply to church gatherings, Morawiecki said.

He also appealed to Poles not to regard the reopening of parks and forests "as an invitation to uncontrolled recreation."

"On April 20 we are launching a new phase, when we'll be gradually easing some restrictions. (...) First, forests and parks will be reopened, but we shouldn't see this as an invitation to uncontrolled recreation, to very broad-scale use," Morawiecki said. He added that the new regulations were aimed to make public life easier and give Poles more mental comfort during the epidemic.

Morawiecki said that the "deeper sense" of the government's restrictions was that they bought time to combat the epidemic and helped save lives.

"Through our moves, through these restrictions, we are buying time. We are buying time, but we are also making it possible to save many more lives," the PM said. He added that thanks to the government's epidemic policy Poland's infection count was considerably below that of many other countries.

Morawiecki said that the three main rules to be observed at the present stage of the epidemic were "isolation, identification and informatisation." Explaining this, he said that isolation meant keeping a safe distance from others and wearing face masks, identification referred to research into the personal contacts of infection suspects, among others via online applications for quarantined persons, and informatisation involved working from home wherever possible.

He also said that further plans included the reopening of commodity trade and services.

Summing up, Morawiecki said he was sure the government possessed the tools to cope with the epidemic, and was now planning a "counter-attack" against it.

"I am convinced that we have the appropriate tools to cope with the coronavirus, (...) the battle with it is not over, but now we are launching a counter-attack," he said.

Szumowski announced plans to gradually reopen larger shopping malls, but said that this will take place under a sanitary regime, with limits on shopper numbers and the obligatory wearing of face masks, distancing and disinfection.

Asked when shopping conditions might return to normal, Szumowski said that not until a vaccine for the coronavirus was available. He added that face mask regulations will also remain in force until a vaccine was found, and said that adherence to the rulings will be monitored by the police.

Szumowski said that the further easing of epidemic laws will depend on the infection count and general progress in combatting the epidemic. He also informed that it will not be possible to lift all the restrictions over the summer vacations, and admitted that this year's holidays "will not be like they used to be."