COVID-19 in Poland (week 2): just the facts

COVID-19-in-Poland borders closed to foreign nationals

A tangle of information has been released since Poland recorded its first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on 4 March. Each week, we take a step back to unpack the developing story in one clear piece of analysis, covering everything from Prime Minister Morawiecki’s announcement to implement stricter measures to combat the outbreak, the NBP president’s proposal of an interest rate cut, how Polish businesses have donated funds to aid healthcare providers and much more. This is what we know so far.

How many cases have been recorded and where are they located?

As of the morning of 16 March, there have been 150 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Poland. Three people have died and 13 have recovered. Currently, the cases are located in the following voivodeships: Śląskie – 16 cases total; Warmińsko-mazurskie – five cases in Ostróda; Dolnośląskie – 23 cases in total with 20 in Wrocław, one fatal; Mazowieckie – 27 cases, including 24 in Warsaw; Lubelskie – 17 cases in total including 12 in Lublin, one fatal; Zachodniopomorskie – six cases in Szczecin; Wielkopolskie – 10 cases in Poznań, one fatal;  Łódzkie – 21 cases in total, including 17 in Łódź; Lubuskie – two cases, both in Zielona Góra; Małopolskie – one case in Kraków; Opolskie  – five cases in Opole; Podkarpackie – 12 cases total, with three in Leżajsk; Świętokrzyskie  – 3 cases total; Pomorskie – 2 cases in Gdańsk.

Sunday 15 March 

Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski said on Wirtualna Polska’s programme #Newsroom that Poland can expect to see a considerable increase in the number of cases in the coming days, but he hopes to see a positive change after 10 days when the effects of the new quarantine measures become apparent. 

What measures have the authorities put in place?

Friday 13 March

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced a new package of COVID-19 emergency measures on Friday evening during a TV address, which includes:

– The closure of borders to foreign nationals (flights and trains) from 00:00 Sunday morning (except for those holding residency permits) and mandatory 14-day self-isolation for Poles and permit holders entering the country after the deadline. 

– Stores will remain open but limitations will be placed on shopping centres: stores that carry items such as clothing, books, and media will be closed, but stores selling essential items, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, will remain open. 

– Restaurants, bars and coffee shops will remain open but will only be allowed to serve customers via home delivery.

– Public gatherings, which include Sunday mass services, are to be limited to a maximum of 50 people. 

Friday 13 March

Starting Monday, a number of dormitories, including those of Wrocław University of Science and Technology, will be designated as places of quarantine for those arriving in Poland. 

Sunday 15 March

The Ministry of Digital Affairs (Ministerstwo Cyfryzacji) launched, a website that provides access to academic materials and resources based on school programmes. The materials are presented as lesson plans designed specifically for each grade. 

Sunday 15 March

LOT Polish Airlines announced that it was suspending all international flights for 10 days after the government initiated its travel ban. The suspension is due to end on 28 March.

COVID-19 in Poland data snapshot - Day 15
How has the market responded?

Friday 13 March 

The WIG20, the main index of the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE), regained ground after Thursday’s dramatic losses by closing out the week with a 4.61% gain. Already being labelled as ‘Black Thursday’, the index had dropped by 13.3% the day before, resulting in the largest collapse that the index had ever seen since its inception in 1994. 

The big movers on Friday were video game producer CD Projekt and the Dino retail chain, which owns grocery stores throughout Poland. 

Monday 16 March

Friday’s rebound proved to be a blip. The WIG20 fell below the 1300 points mark on Monday. 

What are the economists saying?

Thursday 12 March

Economists from the Civic Development Forum (FOR), a non-governmental think tank, released a statement, warning that the ‘Polish public finances and the healthcare system are not prepared for the coronavirus epidemic.’ Despite the government announcing last year that it expected to deliver the first post-communist balanced budget, the FOR economists claimed: ‘In fact, the planned public deficit, after deducting one-off revenues, would amount to 2.2% of GDP in 2020 (over 50bn zł), i.e. slightly less than 2.6 % of GDP recorded in 2015.” 

The Finance Minister, Tadeusz Kościński, later responded to the FOR statement at a press conference. “We have the stability of public finances and stability in the banking system,” he said. He also added that he had spoken to the governors of the main banks, who assured him that the banking system was operating normally and a normal level of transactions was taking place.

Friday 13 March

The President of the National Bank of Poland (NBP), Adam Glapiński, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that he will propose an interest rate cut to the Monetary Policy Council (Rada Polityki Pieniężnej), with inflation expected to drop in the coming months. He also said that he expects the main economic impact of the coronavirus crisis to be contained to the first and second quarters of the year, although he emphasised that the situation can change quickly based on the spread of the virus. The main areas that will be affected, he said, will be transport, tourism, recreation and culture due to a decrease in consumer demand after the recent quarantine measures came into effect, while the wider economy will also suffer due to the economic downturn in the EU.  

“Despite the turmoil in global markets, the złoty remains stable,” he added. “Polish bond yields are similarly low. This is related to the solid foundations of the Polish economy, lack of imbalances and the positive assessment of Polish macroeconomic policy made by investors.”

Sunday 15 March

Economists from PKO Bank Polski responded to the news about the proposed interest rate cut by pointing out that the move will only have an effect in the long run. They also warned that it might have a destabilising effect on the market, with smaller banks likely to be hit the hardest by the drop in interest margins while the larger banks are in a better position to absorb the rate cut.

How has the community reacted?

Monday 16 March

Over the weekend, a number of Polish companies announced donations to aid the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. These include: 

– Agata SA, a furniture company, will donate 1m zł to healthcare providers for the purchase of medical equipment;

– OTCF, a company which produces the 4F sporting clothing, has given MSWiA, a hospital in Warsaw, 300 pairs of goggles for the use of hospital personnel who are treating those infected. 

– The oil refiners/petrol retailers PKN Orlen and Lotos announced 6m zł and 5m zł donations respectively. 

Videos of empty city streets are surfacing on the internet. The initiative to stay at home (#ZOSTANWDOMU) is trending on social media. 

A popular grocery store, Żabka, is allowing a maximum of five customers at a time. DOZ pharmacies are doing the same. Drug stores, such as Rossmann and Hebe, are limiting the amounts of items people can buy at once, such as soap and toilet paper.

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Written by: PT Team