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Poland's President Has Coronavirus     10/24 10:10

   

   WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish President Andrzej Duda says he feels well 
despite testing positive for the coronavirus, and he apologized Saturday to 
everyone who must quarantine because they had contact with him.

   Duda, 48, said in a recording published on Twitter that he was experiencing 
no COVID-19 symptoms "but unfortunately, the test result is absolutely 
unambiguous."

   "I would like to apologize to all those who are exposed to quarantine 
procedures because of meeting me in recent days," he said. "If I had had any 
symptoms, please believe me, all meetings would have been canceled."

   Duda's diagnosis comes amid a huge surge in confirmed new cases of COVID-19 
and virus-related deaths in Poland, a nation of 38 million that saw very low 
infection rates in the spring.

   The president's key constitutional roles include guiding foreign policy and 
signing legislation. But many of his duties are ceremonial, and most of the 
responsibility for running the country lies with Prime Minister Mateusz 
Morawiecki's government.

   Poland on Saturday reported 13,628 new confirmed cases and a record daily 
number of COVID-19 deaths, 179. The daily case count was the nation's 
second-highest of the pandemic after a record number set Friday.

   Social tensions are also growing in the country.

   Police used tear gas Saturday on protesters angry over new virus 
restrictions, a group that includes entrepreneurs, far-right politicians, 
football fans and vaccine opponents. The protesters, many wearing no protective 
masks, violated a limit on public gatherings.

   At the same time, people took to the streets in Warsaw and other cities for 
a third day to protest a Polish court ruling that declared abortions of fetuses 
with congenital defects unconstitutional. The decision further restricted what 
was already one of Europe's strictest abortion laws.

   Critics accuse Poland's right-wing ruling party of using the cover of the 
pandemic and a court it has filled with loyalists to impede abortion access in 
a legally dubious manner. They also accuse the Law and Justice party of seeking 
to exacerbate social conflicts to distract attention from soaring COVID-19 
infection rates.

   The fast spread of the virus is pushing Poland's strained health system to 
the breaking point. Doctors say patients are dying not only from COVID-19, but 
from other illnesses that overwhelmed hospitals are unable to treat.

   The government is preparing to open field hospitals, but it is not clear 
where it will find the doctors and nurses to staff them.

   Duda on Friday visited the National Stadium in Warsaw, which is being 
transformed into one of the field hospitals. He also bestowed state honors 
Friday on Iga Swiatek, the 19-year-old Polish tennis player who won the French 
Open this month, and her father and trainer, Tomasz Swiatek.

   Duda and the Swiateks wore masks and gloves but stood very close and shook 
hands as the president fastened honorary pins on them.

   Iga Swiatek said she and others on her team have no symptoms but would go 
into quarantine following Duda's positive test. She said they are tested 
regularly and would be tested again in three days.

   The Polish government imposed new restrictions starting Saturday that are 
just short of a lockdown in hopes of bringing the country's outbreak under 
control. The prime minister appealed to Poles to strictly observe these 
"serious restrictions" in order to protect lives.

   The country currently has some 11,500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 
and 911 of them on respirators, the Health Ministry said.

 
 
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