Policy responses for Poland - HSRM

Poland


Policy responses for Poland

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

End of year school exams:
 
The Central Examination Board, the Ministry of National Education and the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate prepared detailed guidelines for the organization and safe conduct of the eighth grade, junior high school and matriculation (high school) exams in 2020. The guidelines specify, among others,  who can be present on school premises during the exams; the use of PPE by exam candidates and persons conducting the exams, including rules for covering the mouth and nose; security measures and possible modifications of rooms and other spaces used to conduct the exams; and procedures to be followed in the event of suspected infection by a member of the examination team or the student.
 
Sources:
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/znosimy-kolejne-ograniczenia--18-maja-pojdziesz-do-fryzjera-kosmetyczki-i-restauracji [access online 19.05.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/przygotowania-do-egzaminow-zewnetrznych--wytyczne-men-cke-i-gis [access online 19.05.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/naukowcy-z-polski-wspoltworcami-sukcesu-miedzynarodowego-respiratora-mvm-do-walki-z-koronawirusem [access online 19.05.2020]
 
From 25 May, eight grade students, who are due to take school exams, have been allowed to attend voluntary individual or small group consultations at schools concerning the subjects tested in these examinations (and, if necessary, also concerning other subjects). The size of these consultations will depend on the students’ needs as well as the schools’ working conditions. Their schedule and organization will be determined by the school’s head in consultation with the teachers. From 1 June, pupils from other school grades have been allowed to attend consultations on all subjects taught in the school. The school head will inform the school head about the form and dates of these consultations, taking into account the epidemic situation in the municipality.
 
From 25 May, it has also been possible to resume some university classes in the traditional form (as opposed to only remotely), however these activities will remain limited and all classes that can be conducted using distance learning platforms, should be continued in this form (for information on exceptions from this rule see https://www.rp.pl/Edukacja-i-wychowanie/305249931-Koronawirus-a-funkcjonowanie-uczelni-od-25-maja-mozliwe-jest-prowadzenie-czesci-zajec-w-tradycyjnej-formie.html). Any changes to these guidelines will follow guidance from the Government Crisis Management Team.
 
Source:
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/dodatkowe-wytyczne-dla-dyrektorow-i-nauczycieli-w-zwiazku-z-umozliwieniem-opieki-uczniom-klas-i-iii-i-organizacja-konsultacji-na-terenie-szkoly [access online 31.05.2020]
 
International flights:
 
Since August 12, international flights from over 40 countries from around the world have been banned. For at least two weeks, planes taking off from these countries will not be able to land on the Polish territory. The ban concerns a closed list of countries determined in the function of their epidemiological status (taking into account, among others, the 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people). The following countries are on this list in the period from 12 to 25 August: Bosnia and Herzegovina; the People's Republic of China; Montenegro; the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe; the Russian Federation; Federative Republic of Brazil; the Principality of Andorra; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Kingdom of Bahrain; the kingdom of Eswatini; United Mexican States; the State of Israel; States of Qatar; States of Kuwait; the Argentine Republic; the Republic of Armenia; the Republic of Chile; the Dominican Republic; the Republic of Ecuador; the Gabonese Republic; the Republic of Guatemala; the Republic of Honduras; the Republic of Iraq; the Republic of Kazakhstan; the Kyrgyz Republic; the Republic of Colombia; the Republic of Kosovo; the Republic of Costa Rica; the Republic of North Macedonia; the Republic of Maldives; the Republic of Moldova; the Republic of Panama; the Republic of Peru; South Africa; the Republic of El Salvador; the Republic of Serbia; the Republic of Singapore; the Republic of Suriname; Cape Verde; United States of America; the Sultanate of Oman; Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; the Multinational State of Bolivia; Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
 
Resumption of air traffic will depend not only on the decision of the Polish government, but also on restrictions in the field of business and tourist traffic, which are in force in the European Union and other countries.
 
Sources:
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/nowe-rozporzadzenie-ws-lotow--ktore-samoloty-nie-wyladuja-w-polsce2 [access online 23.08.2020]
 
Economy:
 
In August, the Polish Government established the Culture Support Fund: PLN 400 million will be allocated to support local government cultural institutions, NGOs and entrepreneurs conducting cultural activities in the field of theatre, music and dance. The aim of the Fund is to ensure stable functioning of the institutions and to maintain existing employment in the cultural sector. The compensation will apply to lost - due to the epidemic - revenues in the period from March 12 to December 30 this year. The disbursement of funds will be coordinated by voivodeship offices. Substantive support will be provided by a specially appointed Committee for the Culture Support Fund.
 
The Council of Ministers approved the resolution on the adoption of the draft amendment to the Rural Development Program for 2014-2020, submitted by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The key change is the introduction of "Exceptional temporary support to farmers and SMEs particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis." The one-off aid will be addressed to farmers who have suffered financial losses due to the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, particularly farmers in sectors that have been the most affected by the pandemic, including beef cattle, cows (milk), pigs, sheep, goats, slaughter and laying poultry and the cultivation of ornamental plants. EUR 273.4 million has been allocated to the new measure.
 
Education:
 
On 1 September the new school year has begun, The following variants of school functioning have been devised in the event of an infection in a given area.
· Option A - traditional form of education at schools. Guidelines by the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National apply. In the event of an epidemiological threat, the school’s head, after obtaining a positive opinion of the County State Sanitary Inspector and with the consent of the governing body, will be able to partially or fully suspend the stationary work of schools and institutions. Then two variants of education will be allowed: B and C.
 
· Option B - a mixed form of education (hybrid). The school’s head will be able to suspend the group, educational group, division, class, educational stage or the entire school or facility for all or individual classes and conduct distance (remote) education. It will depend on the epidemic situation in a given area, school or institution. The decision will be made by the director after obtaining the consent of the governing body and receiving a positive opinion of the County State Sanitary Inspector. Due to the need to make a quick decision, these opinions can be obtained in writing, orally, by e-mail or by phone.
 
· Option C - distance learning. The school’s head decides to suspend full-time classes for a specified period and introduce distance education (remote education) throughout the school. In this case, the consent of the governing body and a positive opinion of the County State Sanitary Inspector will be required. The Minister of National Education still retains the right to limit classes in schools in the country.
 
Schools in the RED and YELLOW ZONES
 
Students living in the red and yellow zones may also return to schools. Schools in these areas have to follow the national safety rules. However, school’s directors may decide to introduce additional security rules (e.g. maintaining physical distance in common spaces, suspension of excursions). It is worth noting that the introduction of a yellow or red zone in a given powiat does not mean that schools will automatically switch to the mixed or remote teaching mode. Detailed information on the functioning of schools in the new school year is available on the website of the Ministry of National Education.
 
Hand disinfection and social distancing in schools
 
Students and school staff will be required to disinfect hands after entering the school building and to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, and to cover their mouths when sneezing and coughing. Students and teachers should try to distance themselves from other people as much as possible. To make it possible, the director may introduce, for example, different times of breaks or activities on the pitch. There is no obligation to cover the nose and mouth by teachers and children attending the facility. However, in a situation where keeping a safe distance from another person is not possible, cover of mouth and nose - e.g. during breaks, in a corridor with a lot of people – is encouraged.
 
Safety rules in the gym and canteen
The canteen and gym rooms should be cleaned regularly. In the canteen there should be a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between the tables, and if this is impossible - the headmaster is obliged to provide PPE. All equipment used during gym classes must be cleaned or disinfected. Contact games and exercise should be limited. If possible, physical education classes should take place outdoors.
 
Free personal protective equipment for schools and educational institutions
 
The Ministry of National Education encourages principals of schools and educational institutions to place orders for free disinfectants and medical masks for school staff using a special form, which will be active until (at least) September 2020. The supply of fluids and masks will be provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health.
 
Free on-line training for teachers
 
The government encourages teachers to take part in free online training courses on distance learning and the use of new distance learning technologies. Such training takes place from August 25 until 3 September and takes the form of open webinars.
 
Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/1574584766055908/
 
Support for families:
 
From September 1, parents and guardians will be entitled to an additional care allowance in the event of closure or inability to provide care by the school, kindergarten or nursery due to COVID-19. Pursuant to the ordinance of the Council of Ministers, additional care allowance will be granted until September 20, but this period may be extended if necessary.
 
As before, the additional care allowance in the event of closure or limited functioning of facilities will be granted to: parents of children up to the age of 8; insured parents of children: up to 16 years with a disability certificate, up to 18 years of age who have a severe or moderate disability certificate, up to 24 years of age who have a special education certificate; insured parents or guardians of adults with disabilities who are exempt from work due to the need to provide care for such a person.
 
Sources:
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/400-mln-zl-na-walke-ze-skutkami-pandemii-powolujemy-fundusz-wsparcia-kultury [access online 23.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/bedzie-wsparcie-z-prow-za-straty-w-zwiazku-z-covid-19 [access online 23.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/bezpieczny-powrot-do-szkol-dzialania-men-w-zakresie-organizacji-roku-szkolnego-20202021-w-warunkach-epidemii [access online 28.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/bezpieczny-powrot-do-szkoly--czyli-zasady-bezpieczenstwa-obowiazujace-w-nowym-roku-szkolnym [access online 28.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/zamow-srodki-ochrony-dla-swojej-szkoly [access online 28.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/darmowe-szkolenia-on-line-dla-nauczycieli--zapraszamy-do-udzialu2 [access online 28.08.2020]
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/dobra-wiadomosc-dla-rodzicow-od-wrzesnia-wraca-dodatkowy-zasilek-opiekunczy [access online 28.08.2020]
 
October:

International flights:

Due to the worsening epidemiological situation in the world and the emergence of new outbreaks of coronavirus infections, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends far-reaching restraint in planning trips abroad. On September 28, the Council of Ministers issued a new regulation on air traffic bans, which lists 29  countries and territories from which air connections will not be made until October 13, 2020. Banned countries and territories are generally those where the 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people exceeds 90, excluding the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area, the Schengen Area (to assure the free movement of persons within these areas) and Ukraine. Countries may be excluded from the list if they notify the Polish authorities about introducing solutions that ensure that only passengers with a negative COVID-19 test result will be accepted on board of the planes.

Banned countries and territories are: Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Montenegro, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, Colombia, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Libya, North Macedonia, Maldives, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Cape Verde, Trinidad and Tobago and the USA (the 29th country is the United Arab Emirates, but it not listed because it has taken steps to ensure that only people who tested negatively can board international flights, of which it has notified the Polish authorities).

People staying in these countries and territories on holidays as part of organized tourist groups may return safely to Poland by September 30, 2020 with planes chartered on behalf of travel agencies.

Source:
https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/komunikat-msz-dotyczacy-rozporzadzenia-ws-zakazow-w-ruchu-lotniczym6 [access online 05.10.2020]

Education:

In September and early October cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in several high schools and universities (University of Technology and the AGH University of Science and Technology) in Cracow. According to the Provincial Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Cracow on October 2, 10 cases of infection in dormitories were confirmed, 28 on October 3, and 32 on October 5. Steps have been initiated to limit the spread of the virus within these institutions.

Sources:
https://glos24.pl/politechniki-krakowskiej-jest-nowe-ognisko [ access online 05.10.2020]
https://dziennikpolski24.pl/czterej-studenci-politechniki-krakowskiej-zakazeni-koronawirusem/ar/c1-15216988 [ access online 05.10.2020]


Borders

In accordance with the Regulation of the Minister of Health issued on March 20 that announced the state of epidemic, borders were closed and limitations on entry for foreigners were extended. Border controls at designated crossings with Germany, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also been extended, currently until 12 June when the decision will be revisited. Checks will also continue at seaports and airports.
More details on this topic on the websites of the Ministry of Interior and Administration: https://www.gov.pl/web/mswia/kontrola-na-granicy-przedluzona-do-12-czerwca-br


The extension of border control at the internal EU border does not affect the transport of goods. All essential goods such as agricultural products can be transported across borders. Truck drivers are exempt from quarantine obligations.

All Polish citizens residing abroad and authorized foreigners can return to Poland. The Polish national airline has organized special (publicly subsidized) flights to bring Polish citizens back home. Other international passenger traffic (air and rail) is suspended.

Citizens, legal residents returning home and other people with authorised entry will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day home quarantine.  From March 27, people who due to employment in another country, regularly crossed the Polish border were subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine after entering Poland. The restrictions were applied across the entire Polish border. In connection with the development of the epidemiological situation in Europe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a helpline regarding the possibility of crossing borders.


Mobility and transport

On March 20 the state of epidemic was declared, allowing for tougher restrictions of movement and greater penalties for breaking the quarantine. The internal movement of people is restricted, with exceptions allowed for essential daily living activities (e.g. to buy food, to help those in need or to walk the dog), health (e.g. to buy medicines) and work purposes. Group movement is restricted to two people but this restriction does not apply to families.

Public transport remains in operation but restrictions on travel by public transport have been introduced: only half of the seats can be occupied on a bus, tram or subway. There are also restrictions on mass events, shopping malls activity and operation of commercial facilities with a sales area above 2000 square meters (with exclusions for facilities selling essential products such as cleaning products, medicinal products, pet supplies or fuels).

Educational activities in schools and colleges were initially suspended between March 12 and April 10 and this was later extended to April 26 (although some universities have decided to suspend face-to-face teaching until later dates). Teachers and lecturers were required to teach remotely. School resumed for Grades 1-3 and for Grade 8 (for exam preparation) on 25 May. On April 9, it was announced that the final high school exams (maturity exams) and final exam for eight grade students would be postponed and these have now been scheduled to take place in June.

Economy and state aid
In order to protect employment and help businesses maintain financial liquidity, a series of draft bills have been prepared within the so-called ‘anti-crisis shield’ of legislative measures (which includes measures to prevent and combat the COVID-19 epidemic) and are now debated by the upper house of the parliament (Senat). The estimated total value of the ‘anti-crisis shield’ package is at least 10% of GDP. The bills were prepared by the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Administration, under the supervision of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and in cooperation with other ministries and public institutions. The economic measures they introduce include:

- State financial support for enterprises (amounting to 4.5% of GDP), including nonreturnable state aid, particularly aimed at (but not limited to) micro-enterprises with up to 9 employees that experienced a significant decrease in revenues due to COVID-19 or were subject to a business ban due to sanitary restrictions.
- Exemption from paying social insurance contributions for enterprises employing up to 49 people (for 3 months) and for self-employed persons with incomes up to three times the average national salary;
- A state-funded allowance for farmers (50% of the minimum wage) who are quarantined and their families;
- An idle time pay benefit of up to approx. 2,000 PLN for contractors and self-employed persons with incomes below 3 times the average national salary;
- A state subsidy (up to 40% of the average monthly salary) for employees of companies that have been affected by COVID-19 and allowing for flexibility with regards to working times;
- Non-governmental organizations, public benefit organizations and voluntary organizations will be able to benefit from the support for job protection offered by the state.

A dedicated telephone helpline was launched to as an additional form of support for entrepreneurs. It operates from Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 16:00. Those interested can receive advice (mainly health-related) by phone: +48 22 484 84 84 or +48 732 122 500.

The economic costs related to COVID-19 will be shared among private sector employers and employees, the financial system and the public sector. For example, persons with sickness insurance cover who have to be quarantined are entitled to sickness benefits paid by the employer.

In addition, the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy has prepared a bill that will facilitate processing of granted EU funds (to give their beneficiaries greater flexibility) and directing some of them to fighting the coronavirus, including reducing its adverse economic effects. The bill is part of the government's ‘anti-crisis shield’ measures. The Act will apply primarily to operational programs under the 2014-2020 financial framework.

It was announced that citizens will receive unlimited access to the Internet. This applies to governmental websites such as www.gov.pl (a government portal), services enabling remote medical diagnostics, and e-learning services enabling remote work of teachers and students. Healthcare facilities will also receive high-speed Internet access and equipment enabling them to remotely perform medical diagnostics. Older or disabled people will receive similar support. They will be provided with devices and services that will enable them to perform their daily activities - such as using health care services remotely. This will be financed from a one-off subsidy from the state budget in the amount of PLN 87 million.

The development of the National Education Network, planned to begin for 2021, will now be accelerated so that all citizens have access to the Internet on equal terms. New measures, such as the amendment to the ordinance of the Minister of National Education that entered into force on March 25, also include support in equipping schools with computers and other multimedia devices, as well as with software for conducting remote classes. So far, the government has allocated over PLN 187 million to support students and teachers by providing them with equipment for remote education such as tablets and laptops. A further PLN 180 million will be added to this amount. Local governments (municipalities and counties) could also apply for financial support (between PLN 35,000 and 100,000) within the “Remote School” programme, which was targeted at supporting large families in need. A new edition of the programme (“Remote School+”) will soon be open for applications. It will only be available to the municipalities and the amount of disbursed funding will range from PLN 35,000 to PLN 165,000. Funding can be used to support not only large families but also students with disabilities who need specialized computer equipment and software.

Other measures include placing lesson plans and ready-made content have been placed on the government website, which can be transmitted remotely to children; changes to the organisation of school competitions; and possibility to make public announcements (e.g. recruitment results) on schools’ websites.

From 6 May nurseries and kindergartens have been able to open. Parents of children up to 8 years old and parents of sick children up to 14 years old who are not be able to send their child to these facilities (or find a nanny or other carer) due to COVID-19 related restrictions are entitled to an additional care allowance. Allowance can be claimed until 14 June. The right to the allowance will also be given to those parents who, despite an institution being open, they decide not to send their child.

Simplification of postal services has also been implemented. For example, couriered items may be delivered without the obligation to obtain confirmation of receipt. In addition, administrative deadlines will be extended, including for vehicle owners. For example, it will be possible to extend expired driving licenses within 30 days from the date the state of epidemic is lifted. Deadline for submitting Personal Income Tax returns for 2019 has been extended until 1 June 1.

Civil protection
The state of epidemic was declared on March 20. Although the presidential elections, scheduled in May, were due to take place by postal vote, logistical and legal impediments resulted in them being postponed (a new date has not yet been confirmed).

Territorial Defence Forces within the Polish Armed Forces will support implementation of preventive measures. From March 12 until further notice their mode of operation has changed from ‘training’ to ‘crisis’. They will support specialist services (such as the police, border control, and local authorities) in the efforts to prevent the spread of the infection; provide relief to civilian health service; provide support for the elderly and persons in quarantine; and provide education in the field of infection prevention.

The Ministry of Digitization has also started working on the implementation of a new application called ProteGO developed in Poland (privately but for public use). The application is meant to help control the spread of the virus by tracking location and health data of the application users and disseminating personalized guidance. If one user falls ill, others will be notified of potential risks if they were in contact with this person and relevant information will be transmitted to the Sanitary Inspection. (Such work is already being done in Singapore and Great Britain and Norway have also announced similar projects.)

International cooperation
Polish scientists from the MAB AstroCeNT Center of Excellence are the co-creators of the Milano Mechanical Ventilator (MECHANICAL VENTILATOR MILANO, MVM). MVM was invented and designed by an international team of particle physicists - mainly from Italy, Canada and the United States. The ventilator is just entering the production phase, it will help patients who are severely affected by COVID-19. Gas systems and complex control systems, used in particle physics, use the same technology as that required for the construction of respirators. To enable rapid production, MVM is structurally simple and consists of a small number of elements, and the modular design allows the replacement of parts for others, depending on their availability in different regions of the world. Achieving this result in such a short time was possible thanks to the cooperation of laboratories, institutes, universities and companies, and thanks to the open sharing of skills and resources. This ventilator is also unique in the aspect of production possibilities: it consists of elements available on the market and can be produced without a license.


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