Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Polish authorities to ease certain COVID-19-related restrictions starting May 18; extend border closures until June 12.

This alert affects Poland

This alert began 13 May 2020 18:38 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Polish authorities have extended the nation's current border closures through June 12, as part of their response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Only Polish citizens and their immediate families, permanent residents, persons on temporary stay permits, diplomats, and freight transporters will be able to enter the country at officially designated border crossings for the duration of the measure. Special entry permits may still be granted by the border police. Arriving travelers must undergo a 14-day quarantine period; freight transporters and persons who are entering for professional, business, economic, or educational purposes are exempt.

The country's existing domestic and international flight ban remains in effect until May 23. Cargo, repatriation, and humanitarian flights, as well as certain charter flights, are exempt from the ban. LOT Polish Airlines (LO) has canceled all of its flights until May 31.

In addition, the government will ease several restrictions from May 18 as part of Stage 3 of the nation's four-stage COVID-19 recovery plan. The new directive will enable hair salons, cosmetics studios, restaurants, cafes, bars, and gyms to reopen for business. Children under the age of 13 will be allowed outside their homes without being accompanied by an adult. Public transport vehicles will be allowed to operate at 30 percent of their passenger seating capacities plus 30 percent of their standing room capacities.

A number of other COVID-19-related restrictions have already been rolled back during two earlier stages of Poland's recovery plan, which began on April 30 and May 4, respectively, Certain businesses, including large stores, hotels, and hardware stores, were allowed to reopen, provided they adhere to strict hygiene and social distancing requirements. Additionally, public cultural centers such as museums and libraries were permitted to reopen. Childcare facilities and kindergartens have also been permitted to reopen at the discretion of local government authorities. Moreover, curbs on freedom of movement and access to forests and parks have been eased. During the plan's fourth and final stage, authorities will probably begin allowing larger gatherings to take place and continue to reopen educational facilities. The government has set no specific timetable for this stage.

Restrictions that are currently slated to remain in effect indefinitely include:

  • Ban on most foreigners entering Poland
  • Ban on international rail traffic
  • Requirement on wearing protective masks in public
  • Ban on mass gatherings

Transport restrictions do not apply to freight and cargo traffic. Authorities will probably begin lifting travel restrictions gradually, depending on the level of success experienced with the recovery plan.

Restrictions may be extended, reimposed, or otherwise amended at any time based on disease activity over the coming weeks.

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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