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AFP
March 30, 2020

France steps up virus evacuations from packed hospitals

World

AFP
March 30, 2020

NANCY, France: France staged Sunday its largest evacuation of coronavirus patients to date from hospitals in the hard-hit east, increasing efforts to free up intensive care units as officials brace for even more serious cases in the coming days.

Two specially modified TGV high-speed trains carried 36 patients from Mulhouse and Nancy toward hospitals along France's western coast, where the outbreak has been limited so far. Dozens of hospital workers, flanked by police and soldiers standing guard, spent hours installing four patients in each wagon in an operation that began before dawn.

"We have to free up beds, it's absolutely crucial that we air out these intensive care units. We´re still seeing an increase in patient numbers," said Francois Brun, head of emergency services at the regional hospital in nearby Metz. The evacuations came as Germany sent a military plane for the first time to Strasbourg to bring two patients to a hospital in Ulm.

In total around 80 French patients have been hospitalised in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg, European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin told France Inter radio. She also thanked Berlin for sending France potentially life-saving ventilators "as recently as yesterday".

France has been evacuating dozens over the past week from the east, hoping to stay ahead of a crisis that Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned would only worsen over the next two weeks. Overall nearly 4,300 coronavirus patients are in intensive care, many with severe respiratory problems requiring ventilators that officials worry could soon be in short supply.