Welcome to Gazeta Wyborcza's weekly newsletter on Polish politics. The Polish government is motivated to guide the country to the new normal as soon as possible. This week, it announced a number of ambitious restriction-lifting measures which, when taken together, mean that Poland is close to returning almost completely to the pre-crisis level of social, economic and cultural activity.
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From tomorrow, Saturday May 30, personal protective masks will no longer be compulsory in open spaces, and gatherings of up to 150 people will be reauthorized. The existing restrictions on social distancing in restaurants, cafés and shopping malls will be lifted. As of June 6th, cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms will be allowed to reopen.

While Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki used the Wednesday press conference announcing the new, ever-less restricted sanitary regime to boast about Poland’s successful efforts to combat the epidemic and to underline that the country was far less affected than other, more prosperous EU member states, there are legitimate reasons to question the new, very lenient approach adopted by the ruling camp.

The number of new cases in Poland reverted to its previous, higher level of approximately 400 a day, compared to the average of about 200 two-three weeks ago. There are few signs of Poles treating the new regime as an invitation to take personal responsibility for remaining cautious amid the epidemic, with data from shopping malls showing a surprisingly swift recovery to a relatively high number of visitors .

The government’s decision can be best understood when looking at its approach to saving the Polish economy from coronavirus-induced collapse.

Contrary to other EU states, Poland’s legislative efforts to boost the economy remain frugal and focused particularly on removing workers’ protections contained in the labour code. The new iteration of the government’s “anti-crisis shield” contains more lenient rules on severance pay and group redundancies, especially in public administration. At the same time, while unemployment figures remain relatively good, with only a small uptick so far, the number of new job postings has fallen down dramatically .

Podsekretarz stanu Janusz Cieszyński oraz minister zdrowia Łukasz Szumowski podczas konferencji prasowej dot. sytuacji w onkologii. Warszawa, 18 lutego 2020
Podsekretarz stanu Janusz Cieszyński oraz minister zdrowia Łukasz Szumowski podczas konferencji prasowej dot. sytuacji w onkologii. Warszawa, 18 lutego 2020  Fot. Adam Stępień / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Meanwhile, as the government is trying to gain popular support through the restriction-lifting measures, the Minister of Health Łukasz Szumowski is under fire after we have uncovered a number of conflicts of interest concerning the Minister and his brother, with hundreds of millions of Polish złotys involved.

If you want to know more, please join us at: wyborcza.pl/newsfrompoland

Our mission is to keep you up to date with all major stories related to the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak as well as the day-to-day experiences of Poles and expats during the pandemic. 

However, we also continue to report on broader issues related to our belief in core values of democracy and rule of law. This week, we published a plea by our Editor in Chief Adam Michnik advocating for the release of Khaled Drareni, the Algerian journalist and civil activist detained by the Algerian authorities for participating in pro-democratic public gatherings.

In addition to publishing news and stories, we are also covering how the expat community in Poland is coping with both the virus and the country-wide lockdown by giving voice to your testimonials. If you are interested in sharing your story, please send as an e-mail at: listy@wyborcza.pl.

Thank you for being with us. There is no freedom without solidarity.

Miłosz Wiatrowski

Newsletter’s Editor

PhD candidate in Contemporary European History, Yale University 

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.

We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.

The access to information should be equal for all.

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