Poland reports virus spike linked to mine


Warsaw (AFP)

Poland saw a record spike in new confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend, with most of the hundreds of infections reported by the health ministry linked to a coal mine in the country's south.

The 1,151 new cases -- 576 of them registered Saturday and 575 on Sunday -- marked the EU country's highest consecutive two-day total thus far.

Nearly two-thirds of those newly infected in Poland, which depends on coal to generate some 80 percent of its power, are employees of the Zofiowka mine and their family members, according to the health ministry.

Zofiowka, in the city of Jastrzebie-Zdroj, is owned by the state-run JSW mining group -- the largest producer of coking coal used in steel production in the European Union.

JSW tweeted Sunday that it had also seen large numbers of infections at its Pniowek mine. Like the Zofiowka mine, it is located in the Silesia region that is Poland's current virus epicentre.

The country of 38 million people has so far reported 26,561 cases of COVID-19, including 1,157 deaths and 12,855 recoveries.

Poland introduced anti-virus lockdown measures relatively early in March, which could account for why it has seen fewer deaths from the disease than certain countries in Western Europe.

The government began easing restrictions late last month, upping the public gathering limit to 150 people and scrapping the face-mask requirement for those abiding by social distancing rules.

Since Saturday, various public spaces including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, gyms and pools have been allowed to reopen.

This weekend also saw Polish presidential candidates attending campaign rallies after the election date was set for June 28.

The ballot was originally scheduled for May 10 but was postponed at the eleventh hour because of a political crisis set off by the pandemic.

Just across the border, the Czech Republic has also seen hundreds of coronavirus infections linked to its northeastern Darkov mine -- run by the OKD company -- with Polish workers among those who have tested positive.