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Poland plans to extend visas for Ukrainian workers, official says

A worker wearing protective gear disinfects a bus during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergecy procedures in Lublin, Poland, March 19, 2020. Jakub Orzechowski/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is planning to extend work visas for Ukrainians amid the coronavirus crisis, a government official said, after a request from employers who rely on seasonal Ukrainian workers.

The measures will likely be a part of a 212 billion zloty ($51 billion) programme announced by the government on Wednesday to mitigate economic damage caused by the outbreak, media said.

Asked whether or not the government planned to extend Ukrainian workers’ visas, an official in the foreign affairs ministry told Reuters: “I confirm that it is planned.”

Between one and two million Ukrainians are estimated to live or work in Poland. Many Ukrainian workers, who plug labour gaps in industries like construction and farming, enter Poland on temporary visas for a few months at a time and then return home.

Last week, Poland closed its borders to arriving foreigners in an effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. Polish private radio station RMF said the border closures were expected to last until at least mid-April.

Nearly 30,000 Ukrainians have tried to leave Poland since last Sunday, Elzbieta Pikor, a regional spokeswoman for the Polish border guard, told Reuters.

Poland’s plan to extend the visas for Ukrainians comes after German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said on Tuesday she was working on measures to guarantee that seasonal workers could still come to Germany to work in the fields.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper and Alicja Ptak; editing by Nick Macfie