Epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe in recent days, Portugal appealed for international aid to relieve saturated hospitals but, according to several experts, the country was on Tuesday on the verge of reaching the peak of this third wave .
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Once the threshold of 300 dead in 24 hours was passed, footage of ambulances queuing for hours outside Lisbon’s largest hospital prompted the government to ask for help.
After “several bilateral contacts”, the socialist executive confirmed Monday evening to have accepted “the offer of cooperation from the German government to strengthen the response to Covid-19”.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had already announced the dispatch of eight doctors and qualified nursing staff on Wednesday, as well as some 150 infusion devices and 150 medical beds.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said this weekend that his country was ready to welcome patients in intensive care and, from neighboring Spain, the border region of Extremadura also expressed on Tuesday its willingness to contribute to this effort.
Excluding micro-states, Portugal has for several days been the country in the world hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic over a period of two weeks, in terms of the number of deaths and new cases compared to its population of 10 million inhabitants.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa admitted that the country’s hospitals were under “gigantic pressure”. The toll since the start of the pandemic amounted to nearly 13,000 deaths on Monday, including more than 5,500 in the month of January alone.
At the Santa Maria Hospital in Lisbon, one of the two largest in the country, 333 patients were treated on Tuesday for a total of 350 beds allocated to COVID-19 patients, according to a hospital source. But there were only six places available in intensive care.
Another hospital, which serves the municipalities of Amadora and Sintra, on the outskirts of the Portuguese capital, was still in a “very complex” situation after experiencing chaotic days following a lack of pressure in its distribution network. oxygen, too much demanded, according to another hospital source.
During the incident last Tuesday, the hospital reached a record 363 Covid patients treated simultaneously, or triple the maximum capacity provided for by its contingency plan.
Some 150 patients had to be ventilated using portable canisters and more than a hundred of them were hastily transferred to other hospitals, for example exacerbating the overcrowding of emergencies in Santa Maria, which had between- time set up a system of pre-triage of patients.
In total, the country had 6,869 hospital patients on Monday, including 856 in intensive care.
Spared by the first wave of the pandemic, Portugal found it more difficult to contain the second wave, by limiting itself to partial containments.
Then, after Christmas restrictions eased and the more contagious British variant arrived, the country was hit by an explosion of new cases and the government resolved to impose a second general lockdown in mid-January. , but only closed the schools a week later.
“Strict containment should have started before Christmas, as other countries have done,” virologist Pedro Simas, from the Lisbon Institute of Molecular Medicine, told AFP.
According to him, Portugal was hit by this third wave while the second had left a level of contagion still too high.
“Portugal is now the worst country in the world, but we are already seeing positive signs”, he added, however, explaining that “the number of new daily cases is stabilizing, with a downward trend “.
According to other experts quoted Tuesday by the daily Publico, some regions of the country have already reached their peak of daily contaminations and the Lisbon region should follow in the coming days.