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Coal mine workers make up a tenth of Poland's COVID-19 cases

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A woman is tested for COVID-19 in Warsaw, Poland on April 15, 2020.
A woman is tested for COVID-19 in Warsaw, Poland on April 15, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
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More than a tenth of Poland's confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded since the beginning of the outbreak have occurred at coal mines with a rapid acceleration reported this past weekend.

Coal mining company JSW said on Monday that 2,771 COVID-19 infections had been detected at its Polish mines.

The most heavily impacted are Pniowek and Zofiowka, both located in the southern Silesia province, also known as Upper Silesia. Together, the two mines account for over 98% of JSW's cases.

Poland has so far recorded 26,561 cases of the coronavirus as well as 1,157 fatalities due to COVID-19.

A spike of cases was detected over the weekend with 1,151 new infections reported between June 5 and June 7, the Health Ministry said on Twitter.

Of these new cases, 558 were observed at the Zofiowka mine alone, the ministry noted.

JSW announced in a statement last week that it was collaborating with local health authorities to drive so-called swab buses to employees' houses in order to test them.

"We have decided to take matters into our own hands," the company said in a statement.

"We are currently collecting second swab samples, which will decide whether employees will be allowed to come back to work. This is what us the most important here, because time is of the essence now. We want employees to come back to work as soon as possible," Artur Dyczko, head of JSW Crisis Management Team added.

The mining sector in the country was hit hard by the pandemic with output falling. PGG, a state-run mining company, was forced to temporarily shut down some sites in May as the number of infections grew. Operations resumed last week.

Some 1,400 employees of one of PGG's mine, as well as companies that closely work with the plant, tested positive for COVID-19 and a further 2,100 were quarantined, PGG said on May 28.

PGG is now testing 4,000 people at another mine.

More than 400,000 people are now known to have died from the pandemic, according to a tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University, and over seven million infections have been recorded.

Europe accounts for nearly half of global deaths, with over 168,000 fatalities reported in the EU/EEA and the UK, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.