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June 8, 2020

Poland suspends work at 22 coal mines as Covid-19 continues to spread

By JP Casey

Poland has announced the suspension of work at 22 coal mines as it tries to limit the spread of Covid-19, with its mining workforce one of the groups to be hardest-hit by the virus.

The mines – ten owned by the Polska Grupa Górnicza (PGG) and 12 operated by state-owned Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW) – will be closed for three weeks, according to deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin. All employees, apart from essential “residual staff” who are necessary to keep the lights on, will be set to receive downtime benefits. Sasin also noted that he does not expect coal deliveries to be disrupted by the temporary shutdown.

“Such action is needed to eventually quell these epidemic outbreaks,” said Sasin, as Poland looks to increasingly dramatic solutions to tackle Covid-19 in the mining sector. JSW alone has reported 2,771 cases of Covid-19 at its operations, and almost one-fifth of all Covid-19 cases in Poland are found among mine workers. The news follows the temporary closure of two PGG mines to try to limit the spread of the pandemic, although concerns remain that ensuring adequate social distancing measures and workplace hygiene may be incompatible with the enclosed workspaces of underground mines.

Over the weekend, state-owned news agency Polska Agencja Prasowa (PAP) reported that total cases of Covid-19 in Poland had reached 26,780, a figure which ranks as the 36th-most cases in the world. PAP also noted that the death toll has now reached 1,161, the 29th-most in the world.

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