Poland’s Health Ministry recorded more than 34,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, setting a new record for the country in 2021 and causing the government to order stricter pandemic measures for two weeks in an attempt to combat the rising numbers.
The new record for the Eastern European country comes one day after it set a record on Wednesday when it recorded more than 30,000 cases. However, Poland had previously recorded over 32,000 in November of 2020.
The Associated Press reports that Poland’s new restrictions will include the closing of nursery schools, furniture stores and beauty salons. The number of people allowed in churches will also be limited. The restrictions will go into effect on March 27 and are currently set to end on April 9.
“We are one step away from crossing the border beyond which we will not be able to properly heal our citizens,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. “We will do everything to avoid such a scenario.”
“Poland is in the most difficult moment of the pandemic in 13 months,” Morawiecki added
Polish health officials have stated that this “third wave” of cases is being fueled by the more infectious B.1.1.7. variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the U.K.
“The evolution of the virus and the British mutation is leading not only to more infections, but also causing more hospitalizations,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said, according to the AP.
The outlet notes that the current vaccine rollout in Poland has been too slow to combat the rise in cases. The European Union, which Poland is a member of, has four coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Unlike several other European states, Poland did not suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after concerns were raised that it was linked to blood clots.
“At the moment we still believe that ... the benefits from vaccination in terms of the increase in public safety are much bigger than possible risks from taking the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Niedzielski said during a press conference earlier in March.
According to the World Health Organization, Poland has confirmed more than 2.1 million coronavirus cases and more than 50,000 related deaths.