Poland says looser coronavirus restrictions possible in May

FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Warsaw
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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland could loosen coronavirus restrictions in May, provided a third wave of the pandemic peaks between March and April, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Thursday.

Poland's new daily coronavirus cases will reach 15,250 on Thursday, he said, having jumped to 15,698 on Wednesday in one of the biggest spikes since November.

"Maybe after (the Easter holidays) we will be able to make more forthright decisions about loosening restrictions if we see that the pandemic's peak is behind us," Niedzielski told Polish web portal WP.pl.

"If we see the peak of the pandemic at the cusp of March and April then we probably have a loosening path ahead of us."

Poland eased some restrictions last month, reopening ski slopes as well as cinemas, hotels and theatres for up to 50% capacity, but authorities say the measures may have to be rolled back as cases rise again.

As in other European Union countries, Poland's vaccination programme has been hampered by delays in deliveries from producers, such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

AstraZeneca cancelled a delivery of 62,000 vaccines to Poland on Thursday at the last minute, the government's strategic material reserves agency told state news agency PAP. The vaccines could now arrive next week.

"This situation is an absolute scandal. These types of practices completely ruin the country's vaccine schedule," the head of the agency, Michal Kuczmierowski, told PAP.

To speed up the pace of vaccinations, Niedzielski said people who have already had coronavirus and are immune will soon receive only one dose of the vaccine.

The government is also looking to extend the period between receiving the first and second dose for everyone else, he said.

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones)