BOCHNIA, Poland (AP) – Polish hospitals struggled over Easter weekend with a massive number of people infected with COVID-19 following a large spike in infections in Central and Eastern Europe in recent weeks.
In Poland new stricter pandemic restrictions were ordered for a two-week period around Easter in order to reduce the infection rate. The country reached new records of more than 35,000 daily infections in two recent days, and deaths have been in the hundreds each day.
The goal of the new restrictions was to avoid large gatherings during the long weekend that culminates with Easter Monday. Meanwhile, the government is also trying to speed up the launch of the vaccine in the country, but the pressure on the country’s hospitals remains unrelenting.
On Easter Sunday, coronavirus patients occupied almost all of the 120 beds at Bochnia County Hospital, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the southern city of Krakow.
“It’s a difficult situation, because there are a lot of patients,” said Bozena Gicala, a nurse treating COVID-19 patients who spoke with Associated Press reporters visiting the hospital.
He said the support of his colleagues was essential in handling the unprecedented situation.
Another nurse, Ewa Ptak, said that she herself had COVID-19 and that she has a mission to help those who suffer more than her.
“Thank God I was left without a hospital and I was fine. But I know what it is and I just want to help people, ”said Ptak.
One patient, Edward Szumanski, 82, expressed concern about how some people still refuse to view the virus that has killed more than 2.8 million people worldwide as a threat. Poland has witnessed some 55,000 of those deaths.
“The disease is certainly there and it is very serious. Those who have not experienced it, those who do not have it in their family, may be fooling themselves, but the reality is different, “he said.
Szumanski said he is also concerned that ICU spaces in hospitals will soon be depleted and more people will die. There have been warnings and reports in the Polish media about how the nation’s healthcare system is reaching a breaking point.
The hospital’s medical director, Jaroslaw Gucwa, said the pandemic has been exacerbated by those who believe it is all a hoax and have avoided the masks or ignored the restrictions.
The hospital is so stressed that it is discharging patients who still need more treatment “to accommodate the next in serious condition. This is not a normal situation, ”he added.
Poland recorded 204 new deaths from COVID-19 on Easter Sunday, but the numbers in recent days have been much higher, mostly around 500 a day, hitting a peak this year at 653 on Wednesday.
“The hardest part is when you intubate your friends and leave them in intensive care,” Gucwa said.
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