Poland discovers South African COVID-19 variant as third wave looms

FILE PHOTO: A paramedic transports a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Warsaw, Poland December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has discovered the South African variant of the coronavirus on its territory, the health minister said on Friday, as he warned that the country was entering a third wave of the pandemic.

Around 10% of coronavirus cases in Poland are currently estimated to be the British variant, and the discovery of another highly contagious mutation in the country adds to the worries of authorities facing a rising tide of infections.

“The third wave of the pandemic is in Poland,” Adam Niedzielski told a news conference. “It is not a question of whether or not it will appear, but what size it will reach in the near future.”

“Literally just a moment ago I received information that in addition to the British variant, the South African variant has appeared,” he said.

Poland has loosened some restrictions, recently opening ski slopes as well as cinemas, hotels and theatres at up to 50% capacity, but authorities have warned that these measures may have to be rolled back depending on the pandemic situation.

A health ministry spokesman said earlier on Friday that there was a 20% week-to-week growth trend.

On Friday, Poland reported 8,777 new cases of the coronavirus and 241 deaths. In total, it has reported 1,623,218 cases of the coronavirus and 41,823 deaths.

Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; editing by Kim Coghill, Larry King