Portugal: Hospitals overwhelmed as Austria and Germany offer help

Portugal records the highest death rate in Europe after an explosive third wave.

January 2021 recorded 19,452 Covid-19 deaths in Portugal according to data from the Death Certificates Information System. Germany and Austria have offered assistance to their European counterpart with the intention of saving lives. 

Austria, which is 1868km from Portugal is now admitting patients in need of intensive care. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz revealed that his country had welcomed some patients from Portugal without giving a specific number.

The German military will send medical assistance and staff members to assist Portugal in dealing with what is now the country’s third coronavirus outbreak. Germany’s aid package includes 150 field hospitals, medics, and several respiratory machines. The ExtraMadura region of Western Spain that borders Portugal also offered assistance. 

Also read: France closes non-EU borders and prepares for a third lockdown

On Tuesday alone, Portugal reported 5,540 coronavirus cases raising the national tally to 731,861. This was according to the Directorate-General for Health. On the same day, the death toll was at 260, cumulatively rising to 13,017. 

The country of 10.2 million inhabitants is now calling for international assistance to offset the pressure on overwhelmed staff at the hospitals. PM Antonio Costa has acknowledged the immense pressure on the healthcare system. In a tweet, Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, in charge of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid affirmed that the EU is closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation in Portugal. 

Also read: Novavax Covid-19 vaccine proves 89% effective in UK clinical trials

Portugal is now the worst-hit country in Europe, especially in the past two weeks given the record number of people who have lost their lives. The Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon is among the largest in the country and had to accommodate 333 patients out of a maximum capacity of 350-bed allocation spaces for Covid-19 cases. According to DW, Other hospitals such as Sintra and Amadora were forced to contend with reduced pressure in their oxygen distribution systems as they struggled to meet the demand surge. The hospitalization situation is prompting hospitals to treat their patients at home. 

Authorities are however upbeat that the worst of the third wave has passed. The renewed optimism comes from the drop in hospitalization numbers below 6,000 for the second day in a row. In several areas, the numbers seem to have peaked. 

Also read: New variants of the coronavirus determine new travel restrictions in Europe

The first wave of coronavirus infections in Portugal was reasonably contained. The second wave forced the country into partial lockdowns that helped in revering the surging numbers. Over Christmas, the highly infectious and deadly English variant was reported. In a recent press conference, Portuguese President Rebelo de Sousa said that the variant is responsible for 50% of new infections reported. This is not to mention the new Brazilian variant that has been reported in Portugal, prompting countries like Britain to announce travel restrictions. Mid-January witnessed an explosion in cases prompting the government to impose a second lockdown and close down schools. 

Most countries are closing down their borders as they race to vaccinate their populations before they have to deal with the ever-increasing new variants. 

Ph: Barry Paterson / Shutterstock.com