Poland reports record daily coronavirus figures

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland reported 903 new coronavirus cases on Friday, according to the Health Ministry’s Twitter account, the highest daily increase since the pandemic began.

The new record comes days after the health minister resigned and as Poland braces for the new school year starting on Sept.1.

The health ministry data showed the biggest increase in the south of Poland, including the mining region Silesia, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis as many miners caught the disease and mining operations were closed.

But there were also significant rises in central and northern Poland. The health ministry said outbreaks have become more dispersed and mostly stem from gatherings, such as weddings, crowded working places and organised holidays.

Earlier this week Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski resigned from his post, the second resignation in two days from the ministry, which has faced growing criticism for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) imposed strict restrictions in March to curb the spread of the virus and started easing them in May, which critics said was to encourage Poles to vote in the presidential election.

In July Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki downplayed the infection risks, saying Poles should not be afraid to vote because the novel coronavirus had become a disease “like any other”.

Since then the number of daily cases has been rising. The country plans to reopen schools on Sept.1 despite parents’ and teachers’ concerns about overcrowded schools in big cities.

“There is no reason to talk about the need to close schools or delay the start of education,” a health ministry spokesman said.

The country of 38 million has reported 60,281 cases in all, and 1,938 deaths.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Alison Williams and Christina Fincher