WARSAW, Poland – Poland on Friday, March 13, said it was shutting its borders to foreign travelers to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected at least 68 people.
It would also impose two weeks of quarantine on people returning from abroad, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters.
“Most of the cases that have been propagating the coronavirus epidemic in Poland are imported cases,” he said.
“We don’t want the coronavirus to head our way in droves.”
Morawiecki said Poland’s borders would be closed for 10 days, but that the government might prolong the shutdown.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said that both the quarantine measures and the border closures would apply from midnight on Saturday.
Two people have so far died from coronavirus in Poland, which has a population of 38 million.
Morawiecki said that foreigners living or working in Poland would be able to enter but would also have to observe the quarantine – either at home or at an isolation site offered them.
Trains and airplanes will only be servicing routes within Poland.
Shopping malls will close, though grocery stores and pharmacies remain open, said the premier. Restaurants and bars will close their sit-in service but are encouraged to continue to provide a takeaway service.
Public gatherings of more than 50 people are also banned for the next two weeks, said the prime minister — and that also applied to mass in the devout Catholic country.
Poland has already shut down its schools, museums and cinemas.
Neighbouring Slovakia and the Czech Republic have also closed their borders to foreign travellers. (READ: Europe now ‘epicenter’ of coronavirus pandemic – WHO)
Ukraine to close borders too
Ukraine meanwhile said it would close its borders to foreigners for at least two weeks and stop all flights, as it reported its first COVID-19 fatality.
“Ukraine’s borders will be closed to foreign citizens for two weeks,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the country’s Security and Defense Council, told reporters, adding that the measure will take effect in 48 hours.
The news was announced minutes before the country reported its first death from the virus.
Later Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Facebook: “In 3 days, we will suspend all regular flights” for at least two weeks.
He also asked Ukrainians who were on vacation or work abroad to return home by that time.
Zelensky asked elderly people to remain at home and asked employers to let workers work from home, wherever possible.
The ex-Soviet country, which has a population of 42 million, has so far reported 3 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 infection.
Danilov said that all Ukrainians would be allowed to return to the country, and those coming back from the nations most affected by the pandemic will have to be quarantined.
The ban on foreigners would only be waived for diplomatic workers, he said.
Ukraine’s deputy health minister, Viktor Lyashko, speaking alongside Danilov, said a woman who was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Thursday has died.
He added the woman who lived in north-west Zhytomyr region was in her seventies and was suffering from double pneumonia after she returned from a trip to neighbouring Poland.
“Doctors, unfortunately, could not save her life,” Lyashko said.
On Thursday Ukraine closed schools and universities nationwide and banned all major public events as part of containment measures, while Ukraine’s Orthodox Church told worshippers they could avoid kissing icons. – Rappler.com