World News

Polish PM tells voters COVID-19 is disease 'like any other'

FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a memorial concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi death camp Auschwitz at the State Opera in Berlin, Germany, January 27, 2020. Odd Andersen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday Poles should not be afraid to vote in the second round of a presidential election due on July 12 because the novel coronavirus has become a disease “like any other”.

His nationalist ruling party’s presidential candidate, the incumbent Andrzej Duda, faces a neck-and-neck re-election bid against centrist Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, following a first round of voting last Sunday.

Poland has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well, with fewer than 1,500 deaths so far out of a total population of some 38 million, though it continues to report new cases in the hundreds each day.

“This is now a disease that we could say is like any other, we are only waiting for a vaccine,” state news agency PAP quoted Morawiecki as saying.

“And the institutions assessing the first round (of the election) have confirmed that it was organised in a very appropriate way. Let’s not be afraid of participating in the second round,” he added.

Duda’s re-election is pivotal for the ambition of Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) government to make further progress on its conservative agenda, which includes justice reforms the European Union says subvert democratic standards.

Earlier this week Morawiecki appealed especially to elderly Poles not to be deterred by the pandemic and to turn out to vote in the second round.

Despite his comments and an easing of its lockdown measures, Poland has yet to see a sustained decline in new COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday it reported 382 new cases, the highest number since June 17, and on Thursday 371 more cases.

Poland’s presidential election was originally set for May 10 but had to be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Additional reporting by Anna Koper and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Gareth Jones