The Polish government has announced an aid scheme worth around 220 million Euro for communities in the country’s mountainous regions of the south. These are areas which have been hit by restrictions of winter tourism.
The announced package has not quelled discontents among the tightly knit highland communities. They are therefore threatening to violate lockdown restrictions via reopening their businesses next week.
The government measures announced are to aid the tourist industry and to cover remission on property council tax that local councils can grant individual businesses. The measure has been introduced by economy minister and Deputy PM Jarosław Gowin who acknowledged that a reduction in tourist numbers of up to 70 percent was biting hard. Each of the 200 highland municipalities can apply for up to cc 2 million Euro grant for businesses that are not covered by the government’s existing support package for the wider tourist industry, which was introduced last year.
However the locals just do not think that this is enough and are threatening to reopen their businesses on Monday 18 January in defiance of government restrictions which were extended until 31 January and which mean that ski slopes, hotels and restaurants cannot admit customers.
They have called themselves the Highlanders Veto and are led by an architect Sebastian Pitoń. He told the media that hotels, rooms-to-let and restaurants were planning to open. He challenged the government’s restrictions as being unconstitutional because the government has not introduced a state of emergency. Mr Pitoń a colourful figure dressed in highland costume also appeared on commercial Radio Zet and claimed that reports about the Coronavirus being deadly were greatly exaggerated. He told the interviewer that he had contracted the virus and that it was a “mild and reasonably pleasant” illness.
Reports suggest that the courts are ruling against the authorities in cases when businesses and individuals are brought to book for breaking the restrictions. Last week the Administrative Court in Opole, ruled that a hairdresser did not have to pay the 2,000 Euro fine for serving a customer in violation of the spring lockdown rules. The judgement stated that such restrictions cannot be legally introduced by government decree alone.