Poland Reports Over 18,000 COVID Patients Hospitalized as Nation Hits 100,000 Virus Deaths

COVID-19 cases in Poland are at another peak this week as it reported more than 18,000 hospitalizations and recently surpassed 100,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski reported another 493 virus deaths on Tuesday, pushing the total to 100,254. Almost one-fourth of the deaths have occurred since October, with about 24,000 in the three-month period.

For the past few months, the Delta variant has wreaked havoc on the central European nation. Now experts worry what will come from a new wave brought on by Omicron. Niedzielski called the current hospitalization rate "the most difficult situation compared to other waves."

Some have attributed the high death and hospitalization numbers to Poland's relatively low vaccination rate. At almost 56 percent, the rate falls under most western European countries' rates, but is still higher than some other central European countries.

Of all the people who died in the last COVID-19 wave, 83 percent were unvaccinated. When looking specifically at people under age 44, more than 90 percent were unvaccinated.

Also, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international organization with 38 member countries, Poland has the lowest number of doctors in proportion to is residents in the European Union. There are about 2.4 doctors and five nurses for every 1,000 residents, compared to 4.5 doctors and 14 nurses in Germany.

Poland, hospital
Poland announced it had surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths and is dealing with 18,000 hospitalizations related to the virus. Above, a health worker wears personal protective equipment as she works on a computer in the General Medicine ward that has been converted to a COVID ward at Bochnia Hospital on April 1, 2021, in Bochnia, Poland. Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images

The bleak marker comes as daily new infections have fallen following a peak in what officials call the country's "fourth wave" of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant. But with the Omicron variant spreading, another large infection wave is looming.

The first two deaths from Omicron were reported on Monday, both in elderly and unvaccinated people.

Poland has struggled through the pandemic with a health care sector strapped by limited funding and the emigration of many medical professionals to Western Europe in the past two decades.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's government has sought to encourage vaccinations but is also up against fears and hesitancy among some in the population—and sometimes among the governing Law and Justice party's own supporters.

In recent days, a school superintendent and party loyalist in the province surrounding Krakow, Barbara Nowak, said she opposed making vaccines compulsory for teachers, an idea supported by the health minister. She claimed that "the consequences of this experiment are not fully established."

Her words were sharply criticized by the health and education ministers and medical professionals, but the education minister has refused calls for her dismissal.

Poland now joins Russia, the U.K., Italy, France and Germany as European nations that have recorded over 100,000 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.