Poland to test 1,000 miners a day as coronavirus grips coal region

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland plans to test 1,000 miners a day at drive-through sites to check whether they have been infected with the coronavirus as data show a rapid growth in new cases in the coal region.

Poland has reported 14,898 infections, including 737 deaths. Earlier this week the Silesia mining region in southern Poland showed the highest number of infections at 3,025.

“I have become acquainted with the situation in Silesia. It is very complicated, because it is a large agglomeration, with a huge density of workplaces,” the Chief Sanitary Inspector said in a statement.

Poland’s biggest coal group, PGG, which employs around 40,000 people, has reported 384 cases of coronavirus among its workers, its spokesman said, adding that 1,516 were in quarantine. In total 481 miners are infected in Poland, which generates most of its electricity from coal.

“Miners drive up their cars to a tent, do not leave the vehicles, just open the window and medical staff efficiently take a throat swap,” Silesian authorities said in a statement.

In the last 24 hours, there were 1,494 tests in the Silesia region.

PGG, which is also struggling with falling prices and demand for coal and rising stockpiles, closed three of its eight mines due to the epidemic.

“This is bad news as the companies are in a difficult financial situation,” State Assets Minister Jacek Sasin told private radio RMF on Thursday.

State-run mining firm JSW reported 33 coronavirus cases, mostly in its Pniowek coal mine.

“For the time being, we are able to control the situation,” a JSW spokesman said, adding the group was not considering closing the mine.

Poland’s copper producer, KGHM, said it had three coronavirus cases among its miners.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; editing by Nick Macfie