COVID-19 in Poland (week 3): just the facts

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 the new movement restrictions announced by the government, Warsaw Genomics’ offer to help out the public health system, the surge in DIY sales to new unemployment predictions and the mood in the community as captured by the latest surveys. 

⇒ What measures have the authorities put in place?
⇒ How are businesses dealing with the crisis?
⇒ What’s the latest on the market?
⇒ What are the economists saying?
⇒ How has the community reacted?

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

As of the morning of 26 March, there have been 1051 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Poland. 14 of those were fatal. Currently, the cases are located in the following voivodeships: Mazowieckie – 251 cases, one fatal; Dolnośląskie – 150 cases, five fatal; Łódzkie – 144 cases; Śląskie – 107 cases, two fatal; Lubelskie – 63 cases, two fatal; Wielkopolskie – 57 cases, two fatal; Małopolskie – 56 cases; Podkarpackie – 43 cases, one fatal; Warmińsko-Mazurskie – 33 cases; Zachodniopomorskie – 31 cases; Kujawsko-Pomorskie – 27 cases; Opolskie – 23 cases; Pomorskie – 22 cases; Lubuskie – 20 cases; Świętokrzyskie  – 14 cases, one fatal; Podlaskie – 10 cases.

What measures have the authorities put in place?

Tuesday, 24 March

The Polish government implemented new restrictions which, along with the current restrictions, will last until 11 April. The new restrictions are: 

– Limitations on going outside with the exception of going to work, volunteering or dealing with matters necessary for everyday life, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, walking your dog, visiting a doctor’s office or taking care of your close ones. 

– The number of people allowed on a bus is half of the total number of seats on the bus, meaning an empty seat should separate each passenger. 

– A total ban on gatherings apart from those with your close ones.

– During mass or any other religious rite, a maximum of five people (excluding those carrying out the service) is allowed. Participation in religious events via television, radio or the internet is encouraged. 

– Workplaces have no limit to the number of people allowed but need to implement the recommendations of the Chief Sanitary Inspector in maintaining the distance of employees and using disinfectants. 

Tuesday, 24 March

The Deputy Minister of Development, Andrzej Gut-Mostowy, revealed during a video conference with the Chamber of Commerce of the Polish Hotel Industry (IGHP) that the ministry was working on a support package for the tourism industry with the aim of promoting domestic tourism. Krzysztof Jędrocha, President of the Board, Harmony Polish Hotels, said that he wants to appeal to both domestic and foreign tourism, suggesting that the industry should present Poland as a country in which virus infections were scarce, especially against the background of southern European countries.

Sunday, 22 March

Borders are flowing better due to the implementation of a green corridor and more clarity in the EU. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, EU countries are individually restoring control of their internal borders. The border controls cause major queues and to solve that problem, green corridors will be formed along the key Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) routes, which would allow for a rapid flow of medical supplies, food and other necessary goods. Poland has three TEN-T corridors. One leads from the Netherlands and Belgium through Germany to Poznań, Warsaw and then to the Baltic States and Finland. The other two connect the Baltic Sea with the south of Europe from Świnoujście and Gdynia.

Friday, 20 March 

The Ministry of Digital Affairs announced the launch of a home quarantine app for travellers arriving back from abroad. The app called Home Quarantine (Kwarantanna domowa) is meant to aid those who have to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving past the deadline set back on 15 March. The app is free but not accessible to anyone apart from those who will have to be quarantined. When filling out the localization card, information such as a phone number is required, with which an account is created in the app. It is supposed to help ensure quick communication with healthcare services and better care for those in quarantine. It also offers an alternative option of confirming compliance with the quarantine requirements rather than through police visits, which have been carried out randomly by the police across the country. This confirmation is done by submitting a selfie. The selfie can be confirmed through geolocation and a face-matching system. Like unannounced police visits, the selfie requests will come in by surprise, one or a few times every day. If the request isn’t completed within 20 minutes, a reminder will be sent out, and if it is still not completed, then the police will be notified of a necessary home visit. 

Wednesday, 18 March

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the creation of an emergency economic stimulus package (‘tarcza antykryzysowa’) aimed at lessening the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The package, estimated to cost 212bn zł (€46.8b), is designed to aid the Polish economy, businesses and employees to limit the financial damage and avoid as many layoffs as possible. More here … 

UPDATE (26 March): The legislation enabling the package has still not been adopted by Poland’s lower house, the Sejm. Tuesday was the first date floated by the government followed by Thursday. Now, it is expected to pass parliament on Friday. 

How are businesses dealing with the crisis?

Tuesday, 24 March

DIY stores have seen a surge in sales. As can be seen by the number of supplies purchased from construction stores, Poles are taking the time of isolation to do things around their homes. The data gathered by the research agency, Inquiry, and reported by Rzeczpospolita, shows that the chain stores Castorama and OBI have both seen a growth. Between 20 February and 19 March, Castorama sales grew by 6.2% compared to the previous month and OBI saw 5.7% growth.

Monday, 23 March

Warsaw Genomics, a local DNA testing laboratory, announced that they would help out the public health system by providing free COVID-19 tests to medical facilities and hospitals. In order to receive approval for a test, an online form must be completed. Those who can order a test are sanitary and epidemiological stations, hospitals for hospitalised patients, and hospitals or other medical facilities for medical personnel. The tests can also only be ordered for people who show symptoms of the virus or who have come in contact with someone who has the virus. 

Sunday, 22 March

According to data collected by Gemius/PBI, streaming sites have had, on average, a 20% increase of users in Poland since the closing of schools and the start of working from home. They report that in the week of March 9-15 the most popular sites were Netflix (2.6m real users), (1.75m real users), VoD Wirtualna Polska services (1.37m real users), (1.3m real users), (1.24m real users), (1.14m real users), (0.63m real users), Ipla TV (0.59m real users), (0.25m real users) and (0.21m real users). The numbers are expected to rise. 

Friday, 20 March 

Drutex, a window production company, has donated 1m zł to hospitals in Pomerania to help with the fight with the coronavirus. However, their efforts do not stop there. Leszek Gierszewski, founder and president of Drutex, launched ‘Jesteśmy razem. Pomagamy’ (We’re together. We’re helping.), an initiative aimed at integrating other companies behind one common goal. In an interview with Forbes, Gierszewski explained that although many companies are already helping, uniting all their efforts will help make a bigger impact as they can undertake bigger projects when they work together. He said the idea came from receiving initiatives from companies after their announced donation to Pomeranian hospitals, and now they are connecting businesses, coordinating assistance and ensuring that equipment and finances are headed to where they are most necessary. He also said that the initiative is now expanded into providing actual equipment rather than just funding. For example, hospitals are receiving cosmetics and creams from Irena Eris and masks from the sportswear brand 4F. 

Wednesday, 18 March 

Yoram Reshef, Vice President of the Blue City shopping centres, called for Sunday trading in an article for Rzeczpospolita. The retail industry and as a result, commercial real estate has suffered due to the coronavirus. To give the industry a boost after normal trading resumes, Reshef made the suggestion for the government to temporarily lift the Sunday trading ban in an effort to allow every stakeholder in retail, such as trade employees, store owners, suppliers of goods, to earn enough revenue to get back on their feet. 

Tuesday, 17 March 

Orlen Oil, a subsidiary of PKN Orlen, announced that it aims to produce 2.5 million litres of hand sanitiser by the end of March. In April, the amount is expected to rise to 4.5 million litres. Currently, the company is able to produce about 750 thousand litres per week from its factory in Jedlicze, southeast Poland. 

Meanwhile, due to the quarantine and closing of schools, the book and media chain Empik announced that it is offering free two-month membership to a selection of its electronic products, including 11,000 ebooks and audiobooks, as well as podcasts in the Empik Go application. In addition to this, there will be online workshops and meetings with authors. For example, at 6pm between 24 March and 26 March, there are live meetings with Katarzyna Puzyńska, Janina Bąk and Anna Ficner-Ogonowska presented on Empik’s Facebook page. 

What’s the latest on the market?

Wednesday, 25 March

The WIG20, the Warsaw Stock Exchange’s main index, had made up some ground by the close of trade on Tuesday with a 3.2% gain after a 5.6% decline on Monday. With a digital export base and literally a captive market, Poland’s video game industry once again performed strongly, just as it has done for most of the month. More here

But by the final bell on Wednesday, the index had fallen by 0.63% to reach 1,441.83 points – although in better shape than last week when it had dropped below the 1300 mark. The energy giants of Lotos (LTS) and PKN Orlen (PKN) climbed with +5.2% and +2.2% gains respectively. 

What are the economists saying?

Tuesday, 24 March

The newspaper Rzeczpospolita published unemployment estimates obtained from the National Chamber of Commerce (Krajowa Izba Gospodarcza: KIG) that show that between 320,000 and 480,000 Poles may lose their jobs if GDP growth drops to 1%. But in a worst-case scenario, where economic growth drops by 5%, as many as 1.28 million could be out of work. 

Friday, 20 March

The government’s 212bn zł economic stimulus package (‘tarcza antykryzysowa’) received a mixed response from local economists. Witold Orłowski, Chief Economic Advisor at PwC in Poland, said that while the five-pillar approach announced by PM Mateusz Morawiecki was sound, he was concerned that the amount of total package was not enough and that tax relief and ZUS (social security) payment deferrals needed to be immediate rather than in three months. More here

How has the community reacted?

Tuesday, 24 March 

Despite the pandemic, the presidential elections are still scheduled to take place on Sunday, 10 May. In a survey conducted by IBRIS, 72.2% of Poles said they do not want the election to happen on 10 May, 20.3% said they do and 7.4% did not have an opinion. A pool of survey data which separated the votes by party support showed that the strong majority of voters for the opposition parties voted “no” when questioned if the election should take place on 10 May, while 43.1% of voters for the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) agreed. 

Thursday, 19 March

Surveys, coordinated by United Surveys, have been conducted to compare the reactions of different countries to the coronavirus outbreak. According to these surveys, 35.3% of Poles are afraid of catching the virus in comparison to 40.8% of Germans and 67% of Italians. This data, as well as their opinions on the Polish government during the pandemic, were carried out on 16 March. Of those surveyed, 59.9% Poles said they are satisfied with how the Polish government is handling the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, due to the border controls and the amounts of Poles coming home, massive traffic jams had formed at Poland’s road borders last week. On Wednesday, 18 March, drivers had to wait 30 hours to enter at Jędrzychowica which borders with Germany, in Kudowa Słone which borders with the Czech Republic and Budzisko which borders with Lithuania. From data collected by Border Guards, on Monday 16 March, 24.4 thousand people entered and by Wednesday the number had gone up to 59.5 thousand. Local residents have helped out the drivers stuck in traffic by bringing water and food to their cars.

March 20, 2020
Initial responses to Polish government’s emergency fiscal package mixed
Judgement of the government’s 212b zł (€46.8b) emergency economic stimulus proposals have not been universally enthusiastic. Although the full draft of the bill has not been released, economists have already begun to voice their opinions on the subject. After proceedings began on Friday, debate over the bill will continue today in the lower house of [...]
April 02, 2020
COVID-19 in Poland (week 4): just the facts
Source: In this week’s special COVID-19 in Poland news package, we present a complete rundown of the government’s new restrictions and economic stimulus package, new maps and charts, the latest economic analysis, a market update, business news and a snapshot of community sentiment – including how a 96-year-old Polish great-grandmother is helping out the [...]
Written by: PT Team