Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Poland to begin second stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions from May 4. Significant travel and business disruptions to continue.

This alert affects Poland

This alert began 11 May 2020 11:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant travel and business disruptions

Authorities in Poland announced that, from May 4, the government will begin implementing the second stage of a four-stage plan to ease restrictions introduced to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). From May 4, officials will allow large shops with floor areas of over 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) and hotels to reopen, and permit hardware stores to reopen on weekends, provided they adhere to strict hygiene and social distancing requirements. Also from May 4, public cultural centers such as museums and libraries will be permitted to reopen on a gradual basis. From May 6, nurseries and kindergartens will be permitted to reopen at the discretion of local government authorities.

Stage one of easing restrictions began April 20 and permitted greater freedom of movement for recreational purposes, including access to forests and parks. During stages three and four, authorities will permit further establishments - such as gyms and restaurants - to resume operations, gradually allow larger gatherings to take place, and continue to resume educational facilities for higher years. The government has set no specific timetable for these latter two stages and is instead planning to launch each depending on the future evolution of disease activity.

Coronavirus disease-related restrictions that are currently slated to remain in effect indefinitely, but are not yet specifically addressed by the government's new plan, include:

  • Ban on most foreigners entering Poland
  • Mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals in Poland
  • Ban on international rail traffic
  • Ban on passenger air traffic
  • Public transport operating but limited to half capacity
  • Requirement on wearing protective masks in public

The restrictions do not apply to freight transport. Authorities will probably begin lifting travel restrictions gradually, depending on the level of success experienced with the new four-stage plan.

All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice in response to government reviews and may receive updates or extensions in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Polish government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV2-virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as these may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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