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The council members announced their resignation in a statement published by the Polish Press Agency (PAP). It reads: "On January 14, 2022, we requested the Prime Minister to accept our resignation from further participation in the Medical Council for COVID-19".
"As the Medical Council, we were repeatedly accused of not having enough influence on the Government's actions. At the same time, we observed a growing tolerance for those denying the threat of COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination in fighting the pandemic, which was also expressed by members of the Government or government officials (...). The discrepancies between scientific and medical rationales and [the government’s] practice became particularly clear in the context of very limited actions in the face of the autumn wave, and then in the face of the threat of the Omicron variant, despite vast number of deaths expected (...). Over time, with growing frustration, we observed the lack of political opportunities to introduce optimal and proven solutions in the fight against the pandemic" – the statement continues.
The Medical Council for COVID-19 was created in November 2020 by the Prime Minister and is chaired by Prof. Andrzej Horban, the national consultant for infectious diseases. The Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of Health, repeatedly referred to it when announcing decisions on further pandemic restrictions and lockdowns, even though they were not always in line with the position of the majority of the council members.
There were ever more discrepancies between what the council recommended and what the government decided to do. For instance, in the summer, the council recommended mandatory vaccinations for all medical workers. The government is introducing them in a very watered- down version only now. Despite the council's recommendation, the government has also failed to introduce mandatory vaccine certificates.
Last week, the council demanded the resignation of Barbara Nowak, the school superintendent for the Małopolska region. In an interview with Radio ZET, Nowak has called mandatory vaccination an "experiment". Despite the fact that even the Minister of Health Adam Niedzielski stated that "such people should not be in charge of education", the head of the Ministry of Education Przemysław Czarnek did nothing to dismiss Ms Nowak.
Shortly before sending their resignation statement to PAP, the council members published their final recommendation: "In the face of the current dramatic epidemiological situation caused by a highly contagious variant of the virus and an impending collapse of the healthcare system, it is urgently necessary to increase the proportion of vaccinated citizens, especially among those over 60 years of age. It is also necessary to urgently administer the third booster dose, as it significantly mitigates the course of possible infection".
Anti-vaxxers declare victory. The Left wants the Minister of Health to resign
The anti-vaccine faction of the ruling right-wing coalition, as well as members of the far-right Confederation party, did not hide their satisfaction at the resignation of the medical experts.
"The resignation of the majority of the Medical Council is a good pretext for a new opening on this issue. It gives the government a chance to abandon pushing a senseless sanitary regime in Poland, the effectiveness of which was already discredited in other countries. Have courage! Stop swimming in the mainstream!" - Krzysztof Bosak, leader of the Confederation party, wrote on Twitter.
PiS MP and an ardent opponent of vaccine mandate Anna Siarkowska was also triumphant. She has called the resignation "good news", adding that "it is high time for a change of strategy and the introduction of effective action that will provide quick help to the sick, regardless of their vaccination status and the type of contracted disease".
Bartosz Arłukowicz, a Civic Coalition MP and former Minister of Health, called on Prime Minister Morawiecki to disclose the minutes of the council's meetings. "People have the right to know who and how wanted to save the lives of thousands of people. And who prevented the experts from doing so"- he wrote.
Borys Budka, deputy leader of the oppositional Civic Platform: "I'm not surprised by the decision of the experts from the government's Medical Council to resign. After all, instead of taking real action in the fight against the pandemic Prime Minister Morawiecki is guided only by the fact that he doesn't want to irritate a small but noisy group of anti-vaxxers. We’re led by Cowards...".
The Left party announces that it will enter into talks with the rest of the opposition regarding a motion of no confidence in Minister of Health Adam Niedzielski.
The resignation was also commented on by former Prime Minister and leader of the Civic Platform Donald Tusk. - I know that you will still be in power for some time, but today you have no right to look Poles in the face. And you will answer for this, for all the needless deaths of thousands of people just because you did not have the courage or interest to respect the advice of the Medical Council that you appointed - said Tusk.
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