Poles rush to ski, drink and party as COVID-restrictions eased

WARSAW (Reuters) - Dancing, drinking and fighting marked the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions in Poland over the weekend as tourists, many without masks, let off steam in the ski resort of Zakopane.

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Poland allowed ski slopes to reopen from Friday for a two-week trial period, with cinemas, theatres and hotels also allowed to open at a maximum of 50% capacity.

Agata Manysiak was delighted to be back on the slopes in another Polish resort, Szczyrk.

“It’s great, conditions are great. There is natural snow and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it,” she said.

Many of the thousands who gathered in the centre of Zakopane were celebrating the second place finish of Pole Andrzej Stekala in a Ski Jumping World Cup event in the town.

“Fights, brawls, arguments, damage to shops ... a burning car,” police spokesman Roman Wieczorek told private broadcaster TVN 24. “I can remember such situations ... but I can’t remember them being as aggressive as that.”

Polish authorities have warned that tighter restrictions will be brought back if COVID-19 case numbers rise as a result of people disregarding social distancing rules.

Restaurants are still only allowed to serve take away food, and wearing masks is compulsory.

While the disturbances were condemned by police and local authorities, the reopening of slopes and hotels was welcomed by businesses in Poland’s mountain regions.

“The operation of large ski resorts from mid-February to the end of March... will allow us to survive until the next winter,” Michal Slowioczek, a spokesman for the Szczyrk Mountain Resort, told TVN 24.

Writing by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Alexander Smith