Poland shortens Covid quarantine period, appoints new Medical Council

Morawiecki said the decision to reduce the quarantine period was based on the experience of other EU countries, specifically Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Greece. He added that the move was in line with the guidance of EU agencies. Albert Zawada/PAP

The quarantine period for people testing positive for Covid-19 will be shortened to seven days, the Polish prime minister announced on Friday, adding that he had appointed a new Medical Council to advise on tackling the pandemic.

Morawiecki said the decision to reduce the quarantine period was based on the experience of other EU countries, specifically Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Greece. He added that the move was in line with the guidance of EU agencies.

"At the same time, we want to maintain all other possible medical services… so there is not a situation whereby due to coronavirus other health services: oncology, orthopedics and all the rest - are simply to a large extent disrupted. We will try to do everything to launch other mechanisms that will also keep the remaining parts of the health service active," he told a joint press conference with the health minister.

Morawiecki also announced that people over 60 years of age who test positive for Covid will be examined by a primary-care physician within 48 hours, including the possibility of home visits.

Adam Niedzielski, the health minister, said Poland was launching coronavirus testing at pharmacies, from January 27, financed by the National Health Fund, with no need for a doctor's referral.

"All those who are interested, by filling in a form either at home or at the pharmacy, will be able to have a test and very quickly verify with an antigen test whether they are infected or not," Niedzielski said, adding that the test would be conducted at pharmacies that are "prepared with the appropriate infrastructure."

The prime minister said the fifth wave of Covid-19 had become a fact and that very high infection rates were expected. He said this wave was different due to the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which he said was "much more infectious than earlier versions."

"That's why we're having record infections and that's why we must tackle a new situation, which so far we have not had," Morawiecki said, adding that all countries affected by the Omicron variant had experienced record infection levels.

He declined to speculate whether the daily rate in Poland would be 50,000 or 100,000. "I have seen analyses that it may even reach 140,000 daily infections, but it will certainly be very high," he said. "That's why we must prepare as best we can."

Morawiecki announced he had appointed a Medical Council to advise on the fight against Covid-19 and that it was comprised of experts from both medical and non-medical fields.

"The Medical Council that advised me and Health Minister Adam Niedzielski for over a year has been somewhat transformed," he explained, reminding the press that 13 out of the 17 members of the previous Council had resigned.

"Combining activities in the public and strictly medical fields is not easy and I understand that," he said. "I want to express my huge gratitude to all the people who have advised me to date."

Morawiecki went on to say that some of those people would continue to advise him but, "the Council on the fight against Covid-19 will also encompass specialists from other fields, not only medical."