Warsaw, 12th October 2020
Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers on a strategy to combat the second wave of the epidemic: radical organisational changes and compliance with sanitary restrictions are needed, we cannot afford another lockdown
The number of coronavirus infections is growing exponentially, data on occupied beds and respirators are becoming increasingly worrying. Subsequent changes in tactics announced at press conferences raise the question whether the country has managed in recent months to prepare for the second wave of the epidemic. According to the experts of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, the lack of a clear strategy and effective procedures show that institutions in charge of Polish healthcare squandered the virus’s “dormant” period.
“One can assume that the Ministry of Health was busy “putting out fires” in March and April, but the period since May was the time to reconsider the course of action for the upcoming autumn and to equip the appropriate institutions. It was known, after all, that the second wave of the epidemic would come,” claims Cezary Kaźmierczak, President of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers. “We have been observing the total chaos and helplessness of institutions for several weeks. The procedures either don’t exist or they don’t work, we are testing a lot less people than we should, and the supply of beds and respirators is shrinking. The Minister of Health failed to prepare a real strategy to fight the coronavirus, because it is difficult to call the document published on the Ministry’s website a strategy.”
The basic goals of the Union’s strategy to combat COVID-19 are to reduce virus transmission through mass testing, to secure the maximum possible efficiency of the healthcare system and to ensure business continuity. According to the Union’s experts, despite the declarations of politicians that closing the economy again is out of the question, the restrictions introduced consistently affect business to a great extent and in practice mean a progressive lockdown.
“The Polish economy suffered enormously due to the lockdown. For the first time in years, we have recorded growth in GDP, the budget deficit has increased to a record size, we have spent tens of billions of zlotys on the necessary aid programs,” emphasises Jakub Bińkowski, the Union’s Director of the Law and Legislation Department. “We spent that money to buy the time needed to prepare the healthcare system to fight the virus. This was not done and now the costs of the sanitary regime are again being transferred onto business. It is unacceptable.”
The strategy presented by the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers assumes far-reaching changes in the model of combating the epidemic. The Union’s experts call for the creation of a specialised agency, similar to the Polish Development Fund PFR, reporting directly to the prime minister, which would take over administrative and managerial tasks. From the medical point of view, the strategy is based on the recommendation of mass testing (currently Poland ranks 84th in terms of the number of tests per million inhabitants globally) and the strict enforcement of key sanitary restrictions resulting from the current broadly accepted consensus DDM (distance – disinfection – masks). At the same time, the Union is against any restrictions on running a business; the Union has consistently considered it appropriate to eliminate the yellow zone throughout the country.
An integral part of the strategy is the case study on the strategies to combat COVID-19 implemented in Sweden and Germany. The experiences of these countries are not conclusive, yet they provide useful insight into possible effects of various strategic models.
“Sweden ‘went rogue’ and, being in the European avant-garde, introduced no particular restrictions during the first wave. The country paid a high price for this in terms of economics, but above all, in terms of health, reporting a very high number of infections and deaths,” says Kamila Sotomska, Analyst at the Union’s Department of Law and Legislation. “The country has been going through the second wave of the epidemic relatively mildly so far, but there’s no saying whether this is the result of an approach adopted earlier this year. Also Germany seems to be coping with the virus well. This is obviously a consequence of high healthcare expenditure, but also of mass testing. It is an approach in this respect that we propose to replicate in Poland.”
“It must be said as it is: the authorities in whose competencies it was to prepare the strategy of combating COVID-19 in the autumn did not do their job,” concludes Cezary Kaźmierczak. “Therefore, we have done this work instead and we hope that the approach to fighting the epidemic will be modified rapidly. We have less and less time to respond to the increasing number of infections and to prevent our healthcare system from collapsing.”