WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland reported a record 9,622 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, according to health ministry data published on Twitter, as fitness workers gathered in the capital to protest against fresh restrictions to fight the pandemic.
The country was initially successful in containing the virus in spring but has faced a sharp rise in the number of infections and related deaths in recent weeks, threatening to overload the health system.
Earlier this week the government urged citizens to stay at home and ordered gyms and pools to close, restaurants to limit opening hours and a shift to remote teaching in universities and secondary schools.
It is also considering building new hospitals and giving doctors incentives to treat COVID-19 patients.
Businesses, which fear the loss of jobs and profits, have criticised the restrictions, and on Saturday hundreds people representing the fitness industry protested in central Warsaw against the closure of gyms.
Poland has now confirmed 167,230 cases of the coronavirus and 3,524 deaths.
The ministry also said that as of Saturday, COVID-19 patients occupied 7,612 hospital beds and were using 604 ventilators, compared with 6,980 and 540 respectively a day earlier.
The government has said that it is trying to avoid a total lockdown, but experts say this may be inevitable if the situation becomes critical.
"If the situation is dramatic, lockdown is the only solution. We would not have other tools to control the situation," Krzysztof Pyrc, a virologist told private radio RMF.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by David Clarke, Kirsten Donovan)