Poland passes one million coronavirus cases, buys vaccine doses

FILE PHOTO: A man in protective suit checks a man's temperature amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in front of a hospital in Warsaw, Poland October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - The number of coronavirus cases recorded in Poland passed 1 million on Wednesday as the government said it has agreed to buy 45 million vaccine doses, amidst a second wave of the pandemic that is proving more serious than the first.

The daily number of new cases has dropped since a surge in October and early November, but Poland has one of the lowest testing rates in the European Union and one of the highest proportions of positive tests.

On Wednesday, a further 13,855 coronavirus cases and 609 deaths were reported, health ministry data showed, bringing the total to 1,013,747 confirmed cases and 18,208 deaths.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was hoping to deploy its vaccine program by February, adding that it would cost between five and 10 billion zlotys.

“Poland has signed the required contracts. We have ordered 45 million doses with companies like Pfizer, BionTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, and we are ready to sign further contracts,” Morawiecki said during a news conference in the city of Lodz.

He added that vaccination would be free and voluntary. The full strategy should be completed by the end of the week, Morawiecki’s top aide Michal Dworczyk said.

Some 20,855 hospital beds were being used by COVID-19 patients out of a total of 39,051 available. Patients were using 2,023 ventilators out of 3,106 available for COVID-19 patients, the data showed.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Nick Zieminski