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Poland tightens partial lockdown as cases hit new record

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FILE – In this Saturday, March 20, 2021 file photo, few people walk on the streets after Poland reintroduced a partial nationwide lockdown on Saturday to curb a sudden spike in new COVID-19 cases, in Warsaw, Poland. Many regions in Central Europe and the Balkans are facing one of the most difficult moments since the coronavirus pandemic struck over a year ago. Poland recorded its highest daily number of new coronavirus infections Wednesday March 24, 2021, as hospitals buckled under a new surge. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File

Poland will shut kindergartens, sports facilities and more non-essential shops from Saturday, the government said Thursday, as coronavirus cases set a new daily record.

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Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also urged Poles to spend Easter at home with their immediate families but stopped short of announcing restrictions on movement and a full lockdown.

Poland was facing “the toughest moment of the pandemic”, he said.

“Our health service is approaching the limit of its capacity. We are one step away from not being able to treat patients properly… We must do everything to avoid this,” the premier added.

Poland’s health ministry on Thursday reported a daily increase of 34,151 cases and an additional 520 Covid-related deaths.

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Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said large DIY and furniture stores and hairdressers would also be closed and churches would only be allowed to have 1 worshipper per 20 square metres.

Niedzielski said the situation had become particularly acute in Silesia, a coal-mining region in southern Poland.

Poland imposed a partial lockdown this month, shutting schools, theatres and museums nationwide. Cafes and restaurants have been closed except for takeaways since November.

Anyone entering Poland across its southern border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia will be required to undergo Covid-19 tests or go into quarantine, Morawiecki said.

Along with Central European neighbours, Poland, a country of 38 million people, has been particularly hard hit by a third wave of the virus in recent weeks.

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