An image of COVID-19 virus representing the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden

COVID-19 | The Case of Poland

Poland is a country of around 38 million people. The area is 312 thousand sqkm which gives a population density of 124.7persons/sqkm. The capital is Warsaw with 1.8 million inhabitants, other major cities are Kraków (0.8mn), Łódź (0.7mn), Wrocław (0,6) and Poznań (0,5). Poland has been a member of the EU since 2004, but along with some other new members has not adopted the EURO currency.

Different responses to the crisis across countries depend partly on the organization of political authority, as reflected in the level of regional decentralization of decision making in key areas of authority, and the strength and independence of public agencies. In the case of Poland, the government has four levels, the central government, 16 regions (voivodeships), 314 counties (powiaty) and 2477 municipalities (gminy). From the point of view of involvement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, different layers of government are responsible for different public services, with counties being the most involved in the provision of healthcare and secondary education, while municipalities being in charge of social support, local transport, primary schools and other types of care.

In Poland the highest decisive body with regard to the pandemic is the Ministry of Health. The Principal Sanitary Authority (Główny Inspektor Sanitarny) deals specifically with the country’s epidemiological situation and infectious diseases, and is subordinate to the Ministry of Health.

Health Indicators

While Poland lags far behind many other developed countries in terms of the availability of medical staff (2.4 doctors and 5.1 nurses per 1000 inhabitants in 2017), the Polish health care system scores much better with regard to resources like hospital beds (6.6 beds per 1000 inhabitants) [1].

Generally, from the perspective of efficient treatment provided to large numbers of patients infected with Covid-19, the most important country statistics concern the health infrastructure related to infectious diseases. In 2018 wards devoted to infectious diseases in general hospitals had a capacity of only 2997 beds, which accounted for 1,65% of all available hospital beds [2]. As far as medical professionals are concerned, in 2020 Poland had 1120 actively working medical doctors with a specialization in infectious diseases [3]. They constituted as few as 0,75% of all specialists, which gives an indication of how small this field is in Poland. Assuming an uncontrollable dissemination of the disease, Polish health care resources would quickly face a huge overburden.

Figure 1: Nurses. Total, per 1000 inhabitants, 2018 or latest available.

20200407 COVID19 Project Poland Graph that illustrates the number of nurses per 1000 inhabitants

Source: OECD Health Statistics.

Figure 2: Doctors. Total, per 1000 inhabitants, 2018 or latest available. 

20200407 COVID19 Project Poland Graph that illustrates the number of doctors per 1000 inhabitants

Source: OECD Health Statistics.

Figure 3: Hospital beds. Total, per 1000 inhabitants, 2018 or latest available. 

20200407 COVID19 Project Poland Graph that illustrates the number of hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants

Source: OECD Health Statistics.

According to official announcements, the territory of Poland was free from the Covid-19 disease until as late as March 3, when the first case was confirmed. Patient 0 came by bus from abroad after participating in the Carnival celebrations in Nordrhein Westfalen in Germany. Several other initial patients returned to Poland from Italy. Since then the disease spread throughout the whole country, (according to official statistics) having infected at least 3266 people as of one month later [4].

Financial Indicators

The Warsaw Stock Exchange belongs to the main stock markets in Central and Eastern Europe. Along with 25 other countries, it is included in the FTSE Russel list of economically developed markets. As of 2019 the Warsaw Stock Exchange had 460 listed companies, 50 of them foreign [5]. Since the emergence of the Covid-19 disease in Poland in early March, the main index of companies at the Warsaw Stock Exchange, called WIG, faced value loss exceeding 17% (Figure 2).

Poland keeps its own currency, the Polish Zloty (PLN), which is a free floating currency. According to the exchange rate data from the National Bank of Poland (NBP), which provides the average daily exchange rate of the Zloty with world’s most important currencies, during last month Poland’s currency dramatically lost value in comparison to both the Euro and the US dollar [6].

Figure 4: Volatility of one of the main indices at the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WIG).

A graph representing volatility of one of the main indices at the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WIG)

Source: Warsaw Stock Exchange.

Figure 5: The Polish currency in March 2020. 

A graph representing the Polish currency in March, 2020

Source: Central Bank of Poland (NBP).

In Poland, the number of newly registered unemployed is given in monthly intervals and reflects the number of people who have registered at the County Employment Agency (Powiatowy Urząd Pracy) for the first time in a particular month. However, publicly available data comes with a lag of three months, so unless statistics are provided earlier the impact of isolation policies introduced due to the pandemic will not be known publicly for some time.

Government Health Policies

The Minister of Health announced a state of epidemic emergency in the territory of Poland on March 14 [7], raising it further to a state of epidemic 6 days later [8]. Measures counteracting the epidemic were introduced centrally in Poland by the Minister of Health, and were gradually extended:

  • Restriction on the size of public gatherings: since 14.03.2020 limited to 50 [7]; since 25.03.2020 – 2 people (except for families and funerals – up to 5 people) [9],
  • Ban on all non-essential mobility since 25.03.2020 [9]; since 01.04.2020 limitations on access to public spaces like parks, playgrounds and recreational areas; distance of 2 meters between people in public places; further restrictions for minors [10],
  • Bars and restaurants closed and allowed only to provide take-away food since 14.03.2020 [7],
  • Childcare institutions, all schools and higher education institutions closed on 12.03.2020, formally online education provided since 25.03.2020 [11, 12],
  • Since 15.03.2020 foreigners banned from travelling into Poland (with exceptions), while all Poles arriving from abroad quarantined for 14 days after arrival [7],
  • Shopping malls, sports and recreation centers, sports events, cinemas, theatres, etc. closed since 14.03.2020 [7]; since 01.04.2020 – hairdressers, beauty salons, physiotherapy, hotels etc. [10],
  • Restrictions on the number of people using public transport since 25.03.2020 [9],
  • Since 01.04.2020 restrictions on the number of people in shops and designated shopping hours only for 65+ [10], since 02.04.2020 obligation to wear disposable gloves [10],
  • Restrictions in workplaces since 02.04.2020: distance between coworkers, access to protective equipment [10],
  • Since 16.03.2020 certain hospitals devoted exclusively to patients with (suspicion of) COVID-19 [13].

Government Economic Policies

The government implemented the so called “Anti-crisis shield” which came into force on  April 1. The package includes a number of broad measures to support enterprises and workers for the period of three months and includes both direct financial support as well as provisions regarding financial liquidity for companies [14]. In March the National Bank of Poland decreased interest rates and announced that it will support access to credit through targeted longer-term refinancing operations and if necessary will provide monetary stimulus through large scale open market operations [15].

Short Summary of Measures

Labor market [14]:

  1. Increased flexibility of employee daily and weekly hours of work;
  2. Extension of childcare leave for parents with children aged 0-8;
  3. In case activities affected by revenue reduction (revenue fall by 15% year-to-year or 25% month-to-month):
    1. Self-employed or employees on non-standard contracts to receive a one-off benefit equivalent to 80% of minimum wage;
    2. Companies to receive support equivalent to 50% of the minimum wage for inactive employees due to the stoppage, provided individual salaries are not reduced by more than 50%;
    3. Companies to receive support equivalent to up to 40% of average wage for employees whose hours are reduced by 20%;
    4. Additional employment support provided to SMEs in case of higher revenue loss;
    5. Relaxation of work and stay permits for foreigners.

Tax breaks [14]:

  1. Social security contributions to be paid by the government for self-employed and employees employed in small enterprises (up to 9 employees) for three months;
  2. Tax payments and social security contributions on earnings and profits can be delayed.

Emergency loans, guarantees and support [14]:

  1. Small-scale loans to small companies;
  2. Reduced administrative requirements and relaxation of numerous regulatory rules;
  3. Increased liquidity of firms through channels supported by the Polish Development Fund (PFR):
    1. extension of de minimis guarantees to SMEs;
    2. equities and bond issues to be financed by PFR;
    3. subsidies to commercial loan interest payments from BGK;
    4. commercial turnover insurance from Export Credit Insurance Corporation (KUKE);
  4. Relaxation of regulations related to contracts with public institutions (e.g. related to delays).

Monetary policy [15]:

  1. On 17.03.2020 NBP lowered the main reference interest rate by 0.5 pp and reduced the rate of obligatory reserves from 3,5% to 0,5%.
  2. NBP announced the readiness to engage in large scale open market operations;
  3. Targeted longer-term refinancing operations to allow credit refinancing by commercial banks.


[1] OECD Health Statistics,

[2] Central Statistical Office in Poland (GUS),

[3] Supreme Medical Chamber (Naczelna Izba Lekarska),

[4] Ministry of Health,

[5] Warsaw Stock Exchange (Giełda Papierów Wartościowych),

[6] Central Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski),

[7] Ministry of Health,

[8] Ministry of Health,

[9] Ministry of Health,

[10] ministry of Health,

[11] Ministry of Science and Higher Education,

[12] Ministry of National Education,


[14] Polish Development Fund (Polski Fundusz Rozwoju Przewodnik Antykryzysowy dla Przedsiębiorców 02.04.2020),

[15] Central Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski),

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.