WORLD Polish health minister, key official in virus fight, resigns

WORLD

Polish health minister, key official in virus fight, resigns

AP

22:18, August 18, 2020

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(File photo: social media)

Poland's health minister, a doctor who has been a leading figure in the government's fight against the coronavirus, resigned Tuesday following questions about the procurement of questionable medical equipment.

Dr. Lukasz Szumowski, a cardiologist, announced at a news conference in Warsaw that he was stepping down to return to practicing medicine but would remain in his role as a member of parliament.

Szumowski's resignation comes a day after his deputy, Janusz Cieszyński, resigned without giving a reason.

Szumowski had become one of the most popular figures in Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's government after authorities imposed a strict and early lockdown, a step that has limited the number of infections and deaths in Poland.

However, he has also faced allegations of profiting from the crisis. There have been allegations that a company that his brother owns has received millions in government grants. Some of the equipment which the government has bought to fight the virus has turned out to be ineffective.

Szumowski has denied any wrongdoing and Tuesday said that his resignation is something he has planned for some time and had nothing to do with the allegations.

In announcing his resignation, he said that his work helped “to prevent tens of thousands of deaths from coronavirus in Poland" and that the state still has resources to confront the continuing health crisis.

To date, the nation of 38 million has registered nearly 58,000 cases of COVID-19, and around 1,900 deaths, far less than many countries in Western Europe.

In recent weeks, the numbers of infections registered daily has been rising.

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