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Not so long ago, it was the norm to hear the Prime Minister routinely warn us of a scary and dangerous coronavirus. We were told to stay inside to protect World War II veterans who sacrificed themselves so that today we can live in a free country. The government was reluctant to lift restrictions, even though small and medium-sized businesses hit rock bottom after only a few weeks since the country’s economy was brought to a standstill. The Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski told us to forget about summer vacation and said that wearing face-masks will remain mandatory at least for the next two years, until a vaccine is made widely available.

But that’s history now. Today, we’re seeing a complete reversal of the government’s strategy. People still get infected on trains and at weddings every day, but who cares? After all, the Prime Minister announced that the coronavirus is no longer dangerous. At a rally in Tomaszów Lubelski, he told voters: -I’m glad that all of us seem to be less afraid of this epidemic; rightly so! No need to be afraid. The virus is on its way out and we must go to the polling stations on July 12.

But the Prime Minister is not the only one using this kind of rhetoric, and he’s certainly not the first one. Already in May, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko claimed that in order to build immunity to the coronavirus, men should temporarily stop cheating on their wives, because going out might only increase the risk of infection. –If the virus isn’t such a big deal, why is the government telling us to isolate entire hospital wards to treat COVID-19 patients?- one of the local epidemiologists asked.

Presidential race is well in progress. But what about the coronavirus?

Truth be told, the current situation is not very different than before, when social distancing restrictions were still in place. We still register several hundred cases every day. Afraid that especially senior voters might not cast their ballot, the same Prime Minister who for over three months passionately warned us of the coronavirus has now changed his tune. To make sure that people aren’t afraid to vote, the Health Ministry announced a range of amendments to the epidemic-related orders and restrictions. Signed into law, the new rules would allow seniors over 60 to jump the queue when voting.

Because the government doesn’t want to arouse any suspicion, we’re being told that the number of infections is in “substantial decline”. – If you look at the average from last week and compare it with the spike we’ve registered mid-June, you’ll see that the numbers are substantially lower– the deputy Minister of Health Janusz Cieszyński argued at yesterday’s press conference, explaining that what he meant was the “seven-day average”. –Right after the press conference, I’ll post the chart on my social media profile so that all of you can familiarize yourself with it- he added.

After the press conference, however, there was no chart on his Twitter. But that’s alright; we did the math ourselves. According to Health Ministry’s statistics, in the week between June 26 and July 2, Poland registered a daily average of 290 new coronavirus cases. A week earlier, between June 19-25, the average was at 300. A remarkable decline indeed!

It’s even more unsettling if we consider that, as “Wyborcza” has already reported, the official statistics are being lowered: the sum of new cases in the Silesia region (Śląsk), as stated by the local branches of the sanitary inspectorate, is much higher than what the Health Ministry reports for this region. The government’s efforts to “flatten the curve” of infections are also remarkable. Several days before the first round of presidential election the daily average was at around 300 cases. All of a sudden, the curve has flattened.

It’s unlikely we’ll see an increase in coronavirus cases before the second round of election, at least not in the official statistics. We can expect to see the real numbers only when the ruling camp decides that it serves its political interest.

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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.

Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
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