UPDATE 1-Poland reports record in daily coronavirus cases

31 Oct 2020 / 17:55 H.

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    WARSAW, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Poland reported a record number of coronavirus infections for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday, with 21,897 new cases, while the country faces massive protests following an abortion ruling last week.

    The country has seen protests following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal last week that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.

    The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has warned that the protests will lead to big jump in new coronavirus cases. But some immunologists say that most protesters have been wearing face masks, keeping distance and were out in the open, which reduces the risk of infection.

    "Perhaps the governmemt would focus on purchasing tests and stop shifting the blame for its incompetence," Klementyna Suchanow, a Polish writer and activist from Strajk Kobiet (Women's Strike), the protests' organiser said on Friday.

    The government has been criticised for doing not enough tests and for failing to prepare for the second wave of pandemic. Hospitals face shortages, in some cases turning patients away and local media reports show that the country is running out of respirators.

    The health ministry said that as of Saturday, COVID-19 patients occupied 16,144 hospital beds and were using 1,305 ventilators, compared with 15,444 and 1,254 respectively a day earlier.

    The country of 38 million has reported a total of 362,731 coronavirus infections and 5,631 deaths.

    The government decided to close cemeteries on All Saints Day on Sunday, as well as on Saturday and Monday, due to surging COVID-19 cases.

    Until Friday the governmemt had said it would not close cemetaries on All Saints' Day when millions of Poles traditionally commemorate their deceased loved ones. (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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