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Coronavirus across Europe: ICU shortage in France as Belgium urges Covid-positive doctors to keep working

There is concern across the continent.

coronavirus-data-explorer Per capita Covid-19 cases over the past month. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/

COUNTRIES ACROSS EUROPE are bringing in tougher Covid-19 restrictions to stem an increase in cases that is putting pressure on healthcare services. 

As in Ireland, much of the concern is about ICU beds and whether hospitals can cope as cases surge during the winter months.

For reference on the below, Ireland’s 14-day incidence per 100,000 is currently at 300.1 and deaths per 100,000 people over the past two weeks is at 1.2.

Belgium

14-day incidence per 100,000: 1390.9

14-day deaths per 100,000: 5.8

Belgium suffered one of Europe’s worst per capita outbreaks of coronavirus earlier this year and now during the second wave of the virus it is again among the worst. 

Hospital capacity in the country of 11.5 million people is becoming overwhelmed with intensive care beds becoming increasingly scarce. 

An intensive care doctor in the city of Liege told the Washington Post that doctors who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been told to return to work if they don’t have symptoms, such is the demand. 

“Liège is now is probably the most affected region in the world. We have a lot of doctors and nurses affected. But, starting this week, positive cases were asked to go back to work if they are asymptomatic,” Philippe Devos told the newspaper. 

The European Union has scaled-back meetings of experts and senior officials as Brussels deals with one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in world. 

Over the course of the pandemic, only Peru has recorded a higher number of deaths by population. Peru has recorded 103 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 92, then Spain and Bolivia on 74.

Czech Republic

14-day incidence per 100,000: 1379.8

14-day deaths per 100,000: 12.3

The EU member state of 10.7 million people has registered more than 260,000 cases and over 2,300 deaths since the March outbreak.

The country had among the lowest number of cases during the first wave of the pandemic but it is now recording some 15,000 new cases a day.  

It now leads the EU in terms of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.

PastedImage-91660 Source: Google

The Czech government said yesterday it would impose an overnight curfew as the country tries to stem the spread of the virus. 

The Czech Army has built a reserve field hospital with 500 beds and medical aid has been pouring in from abroad, including ventilators from the European Commission as well as from EU peers and others.

The country has been under a partial lockdown since last week but Health Minister Roman Prymula said the restrictions have had “a negligible impact”. 

“We still can’t see the decrease we expected these days,” he said. 

France

14-day incidence per 100,00: 629.4

14-day deaths per 100,000: 3.3

Yesterday, France reported 258 new Covid-19 deaths and a net increase of 186 admissions to intensive care.

That brought the overall number of people in intensive care to 2,761, nearly half the country’s overall capacity of 5,800.

Some hospitals have been forced to start transferring patients to less-crowded facilities and tougher restrictions are looming. 

Earlier this month, French authorities imposed a curfew that now requires about 46 million people — two-thirds of the population — to be home by 9 pm, as the number of daily virus cases flared.

Media reports say President Emmanuel Macron, who held a crisis meeting with ministers today, might extend the curfew hours, possibly with a full lockdown on weekends, or else order targeted lockdowns for the hardest-hit regions.

Within Europe, only France and Spain have recorded more than a million Covid-19 cases and on Sunday France recorded 52,010 coronavirus infections. 

“The outbreak is out of control,” the infectious disease specialist Gilles Pialoux at Paris’s Tenon hospital said on BFM television.

He urged the government to adopt “a drastic measure, call it a lockdown” for the entire country, despite the economic toll.

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Slovenia

14-day incidence per 100,000: 732.8

14-day deaths per 100,000: 2.1

Like some of its neighbours, Slovenia escaped the worst of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring but has been severely hit by the second.

A country of two million people, Slovenia registered a record high number of cases on Saturday of 1,967 and 1,111 yesterday.

As the situation continues to worsen, Slovenians will not be allowed to leave their home municipalities from today.

Under a partial lockdown already in force kindergartens, schools, universities and non-essential shops are closed. A curfew was also imposed last week.

“The number of new cases continues to grow, therefore we are putting in place additional measures from our plan,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa tweeted on Sunday.

Germany

14-day incidence per 100,000: 144.3

14-day deaths per 100,000: 0.6

Cases in Germany are lower compared to all of the countries mentioned above, but there is also concern in the EU’s most-populous nation. 

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Germany has surged from just under 400 in early October to 1,470 by Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to hold crisis talks tomorrow with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, where she is expected to warn of a dire winter ahead as case numbers climb to record highs and hospital beds fill up. 

Under Germany’s federal system, individual states have the final say on which restrictions to impose, and some less affected regions are likely to bristle at measures that will inflict more economic pain.

Germany coped relatively well with the first coronavirus wave earlier in the year but numbers have risen rapidly in recent weeks, as they have across the continent.

The number of new daily cases now regularly crosses the 10,000 mark, with more than 11,400 new infections reported yesterday.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2020

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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