Poland further limits movement over coronavirus, sticks to election date

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s government said on Tuesday it would expand restrictions on citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including a limit on the number of people taking part in masses, a drastic move in a deeply devout country.

However, the presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for May 10, will go ahead as planned, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

Poland, a country of 38 million, has so far reported 799 infections. Nine people have died.

Morawiecki, speaking alongside Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski, said the new constraints include a ban on gatherings of more than two people, excluding families, and a lockdown confining people to their homes except for essential activities, which would include food shopping, dog-walking, going to work and taking care of elderly relatives.

As of Tuesday the government also limited to five the number of people allowed to take part in religious services including funerals, and cut the number of people permitted to ride public buses and trams at one time to avoid crowds endangering health.

“We are doing so to prepare for the increased wave of infections,” Morawiecki said, adding that the restrictions - due to run at least until April 11 - would not influence the holding of May’s presidential election.

The opposition has called on the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party to delay the election for safety and procedural reasons, saying it was difficult for them to conduct their campaigns due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Agnieszka Barteczko, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Mark Heinrich