'This is war': Polish medics just taking naps between COVID shifts

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff treat a patient inside the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) coronavirus disease ward at the Interior and Administration Ministry (MSWiA) hospital in Warsaw, Poland, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) -Some Polish doctors and nurses are just taking naps between shifts as they fight a third wave of the coronavirus, the health minister said on Friday, amid reports of medical staff using oxygen and intravenous drips to boost their energy.

The country of 38 million, the largest in the European Union's eastern wing, reported 768 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, after the number of deaths hit a new record of 954 on Thursday.

"This is indeed a war and the situation requires non-standard behaviours," he told private radio RMF 24.

"These are the toughest, the most difficult pictures, which reflect the burden of this work," Niedzielski said when asked to comment on some doctors' using drips and oxygen to regain strength to work.

"When I visited a temporary hospital in Katowice I saw doctors and nurses sleeping to rest in between their shifts. The intensity of work is significant, which results from the deficit of personnel," Niedzielski said.

Poland reported record high numbers of new cases last week at around 35,000 a day and on Wednesday the government extended restrictions until April 18, keeping kindergartens, schools, shopping centres, hotels, cinemas and theatres closed.

The previous 24-hour death record was 674, reported in November. On Friday Poland reported 28,487 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total to more than 2.5 million.

"If we look at the course of the number of new infections, it seems that the apogee of infections is behind us," Niedzielski told a press conference, warning against complacency.

"The pandemic is still a real threat and the fact that we see some slight falls is absolutely not a signal which would allow us to think that we have the worst behind... Now we will have to do with an apogee, so to say, in hospitals," he said.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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