Poland reports record increase in COVID cases as coal mines hit

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland reported on Tuesday a record daily increase in coronavirus cases for the fourth time in a week, with more than a third of them found in the southern Silesia region, which has been grappling with another outbreak among coal miners.

FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing protective gear takes a swab sample from a driver at a mobile testing station for miners of the Bielszowice coal mine, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ruda Slaska, Poland July 27, 2020. Grzegorz Celejewski/Agencja Gazeta/via REUTERS

The latest tally of 680 new infections and six deaths comes as Poland considers introducing stricter restrictions, including mandatory testing for travellers returning to Poland and quarantine for those coming from certain countries.

More than 220 cases were reported in Silesia, where a rapid spread of infections led to a temporary reduction of coal output and work in 12 mines in June. The situation then stabilised, but has now deteriorated again.

Last week new cases were detected in three mines, including Chwalowice, which was among those where work was cut back to a minimum in June. The state assets ministry said all 2,700 miners in Chwalowice would be tested on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sanitary services said last week the resurgence of COVID-19 among miners was a result of easing restrictions and of the working conditions in the mines, where it is difficult to enforce social distancing.

Currently 1,043 coal miners are infected, mostly from Poland’s biggest coal producer PGG, data cited by state-run news agency PAP showed on Tuesday.

The pandemic has added to numerous problems faced by the coal industry. The government, PGG representatives and trade unions have agreed to work out a restructuring plan by the end of September.

Poland now has a total of 48,149 recorded coronavirus cases and 1,738 deaths.

Sittings of the upper and lower houses of parliament have been pushed back, with the lower house meeting moving from Aug. 7 to Aug. 14, after one senator tested positive on Saturday.

Members of parliament and senators have since undergone testing for COVID-19.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper; Editing by Nick Macfie and Gareth Jones