Polish retailers threaten to sue state over coronavirus restrictions

WARSAW, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Polish retailers are considering suing the state over restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a lobby group said on Tuesday, arguing the rules unfairly discriminate against clothing and other shops.

The Association of Polish Employers of Trade and Services - whose more than 150 members range from the country’s biggest fashion and shoe retailers LPP and CCC to small family-run businesses - issued its threat after the government on Monday extended a ban on non-essential shops until the end of January.

The association said it was particularly unfair that clothes, shoe and jewellery shops in shopping malls must stay closed while supermarkets, drugstores and home appliance stores in malls can remain open.

“We are being discriminated against. We expect that our shops are allowed to open. Today we are warning that we will fight to the end and one of the tools that we will use soon will be claims for damages,” the association said.

The development ministry was not immediately available to comment.

Poland ordered hotels, ski slopes and many shops to close last month in a bid to prevent a damaging third wave of the coronavirus emerging as the country rolls out its vaccination programme.

Daily COVID-19 case numbers have stabilised in Poland after surging in the autumn, but the discovery of new variants and rising case numbers in other European countries raise the risk of a possible third wave, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Monday.

CCC reported on Monday a preliminary fourth-quarter operating loss of 31 million zlotys ($8.33 million), compared to a profit of 114 million zlotys a year earlier. ($1 = 3.7205 zlotys) (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Susan Fenton)