France has resorted to high-speed trains to transfer coronavirus patients in the hard-hit eastern region of the country to other hospitals, to help relieve overstretched facilities there, France 24 reported.
The specially adapted high-speed TGV train, which in normal times whizzes travellers between France’s main cities and to other European capitals, evacuated 20 patients from the Alsace region bordering Germany and Switzerland, officials said.
The patients were destined for hospitals in the Pays de la Loire region along the western Atlantic coast, the report said.
President Emmanuel Macron last week visited the eastern city of Mulhouse, where the army has set up a field hospital to help relieve hospitals, which have registered more than 1,300 deaths, the report said.
He announced on the trip that the French military would also start supporting public services strained by the epidemic, the report said.
“The whole nation has been mobilised” in the fight against the disease, Macron said while wearing a face mask, while promising more investment for hospitals.
Thursday’s TGV evacuation, a first for Europe, saw the train’s carriages transformed into intensive care units that can accommodate four patients and six medical personnel apiece, the report said.
The country has over 11,500 coronavirus patients in hospital, of whom more than 2,800 are in critical care.
France’s national health agency, Sante Publique France, estimated that at least 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 infection were diagnosed by general practitioners, nearly double the roughly 25,000 people who have officially tested positive, most of those in hospitals, since the start of the outbreak, the report said.
Most cases were in the larger Paris region, the east, and the Pays de la Loire.
The agency’s chief, Jerome Salomon, warned Thursday that “the crisis will be long, and the coming days will be particularly difficult.”
— Agence France Presse