WARSAW, POLAND (AP) – Poland has become the latest European nation to reach the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths related to the coronavirus.
Nearly a quarter of those deaths – some 24,000 – occurred in the most recent wave of infection that began in October, a period in which vaccines have been widely available in the European Union (EU) nation.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said yesterday that 493 deaths of people with COVID-19 had been registered in the past day, pushing the death toll to 100,254 in the central European nation of 38 million people.
The bleak marker comes as the number of new infections has recently fallen following a peak in what officials call the country’s “fourth wave” of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, but as the Omicron variant is spreading and another large infection wave is looming.
The first two deaths from Omicron were reported on Monday, both of them in elderly and unvaccinated people. Niedzielski said there are now 18,000 hospitalisations, making this “the most difficult situation compared to other waves”.
Poland has struggled through the pandemic with a health care sector strapped by limited funding and the emigration of many medical professionals to Western Europe in past years.
According to OECD statistics, Poland is the EU nation with the lowest number of working doctors in proportion to its population – just 2.4 to 1,000 inhabitants compared with 4.5 in Germany. Poland also has only five nurses to 1,000 inhabitants, below the EU average of eight and far below richer countries like Germany, which has 14.
The vast majority of the deaths in the last wave – 83 per cent – are of the unvaccinated. Among younger people, those below 44, more than 90 per cent of those who died were not vaccinated.
The vaccination rate in Poland is 55.8 per cent – a much lower rate of vaccination than in the countries of western Europe but much higher than in some other central European countries, like Bulgaria and Romania.