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Letter from... Poland


By Karol Poznański

Pandemic fatigue has finally taken its toll on Poland and other CEE countries. There is little confidence left since the first wave in Spring 2020 when the region – mostly due to early and severe lockdowns – saw pretty low numbers of people infected because of COVID-19. Now numbers are soaring, healthcare systems are on the verge of collapse, and it seems that lockdown itself is not working anymore.

A few factors are to blame: Growing distrust towards governments, financial hardships of many, especially small and medium businesses, and a general fatigue of society as well as medical staff. The vaccination program against Covid is pretty robust now but organizational hiccups and adverse events are to some extent, hindering the process.

The polish Government, like many other countries, has to deal with two huge icebergs on the horizon – hesitancy towards the vaccine and a growing movement calling for the opening of the economy.

The first issue puts the vaccination program and plan to achieve herd immunity at risk. The latest survey done by the University of Warsaw has shown that only around 60 per cent of Poles are willing to get the jab. Some 40 per cent believe that the Government is tampering with COVID-19 statistics, blowing them out of proportion. 

The second issue is related to businesses which have been closed for a long time now (like restaurants, hotels, fitness centres etc.). Although some of them received support through the so-called anti-crisis shield program proposed by the Government last year – not all were eligible and even those that were, are now running out of money. Owners and employees of those businesses often backed by “corona-sceptics” are now part of a “We are opening” movement – which undermines severe lockdown restrictions.

Coronavirus has claimed over 58,000 lives in Poland so far (by April 12) – in terms of deaths per million that is a little over 1500 which puts the country between France and Spain in the top 20 most severely COVID-19 hit countries worldwide.

Over two million Poles have received two doses of the vaccine and over 5 million are vaccinated with the first dose. There are also over two million people who have recovered from Covid-19.

As the third wave appears to recede, some people are hoping for a loosening of the restrictions by the end of April with schools and some businesses reopened. Experts mostly remain very cautious though and warning against too sharp an end of restrictions. On the other hand, as Spring becomes warmer and warmer, it seems that not much can stop Poles from enjoying more sunlight in May, thus encouraging some restaurants and cafes to open outdoor premises for customers.

With another hot season on the horizon, there is more pressure on both the economy and healthcare system. The Government remains ambitious and wants to vaccinate 20 million Poles by midyear and all by the end of August.