Europe running out of hospital beds as ‘powerful’ second wave takes hold

First coronavirus patients admitted to overflow hospitals to cope with rising infections

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European nations have sounded alarm over the availability of hospital beds as many battle to overcome the second wave of coronavirus.

Belgium - Europe’s worst Covid hotspot - warned there had been a “very limited” decrease in the number of coronavirus patients in ICU wards, despite deaths potentially peaking on Friday.

Health authorities this week began flying severely ill coronavirus patients to Germany to free up beds.

Belgian virus crisis centre spokesman Yves Van Laethem said the country could “finally see the peak of this second wave”.

But he warned: "Just because these results are better does not mean they are good. Together with the Czech Republic, we remain the European champions in terms of the number of new infections.”

The latest infection data on Friday showed a significant decline with 11,128 new cases over 24 hours - down from 15,672 on Thursday.

Belgium hit a high for new cases on October 27 when 22,171 were recorded,

In Switzerland, meanwhile, health workers said ICU facilities were “constantly full”.

In one Swiss hospital, the sudden transfer of Covid patients has become routine.

"This morning, I was asked to take one more patient ... so I had to transfer the most stable patient I had to another hospital to make room," said Herve Zender, chief physician at the La-Chaux-de-Fonds's ICU.

"This is something we are doing basically every day at the moment. The unit is constantly full. We have no back-up."

In recent days, Switzerland’s daily case count has repeatedly surpassed 10,000, and now counts more than 200,000 cases and in excess of 2,330 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

CHARLEROI, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 05: A man is tested for covid-19 in the basement of the University Hospital of Charleroi on November 5, 2020 in Charleroi, Belgium. On October 28, the Charleroi University Hospital opened a space for critical Covid-19 patients as well as an underground drive-in testing centre. The facility was set up in four days by ISPPC technical teams, in the staff parking lot of the Marie Curie Hospital. For the first time in two months, the number of people hospitalized for Coronavirus in Belgium has dropped slightly, from 7,487 to 7,405. (Photo by Jean-Christophe Guillaume/Getty Images)

In Austria, health officials warned intensive care beds could be full within two weeks.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the second wave appeared “much stronger, more serious, more dynamic and more powerful”.

In Poland, the first patient has been brought into a temporary hospital built inside a football stadium in Warsaw.

The stadium, originally built for the Euro 2012 football championships, has capacity for 1,200 beds.

One doctor, Sebastian Szpak, said spare beds in his hospital “simply don't exist”.

“Our staff spend most of their time looking for spare beds in other facilities, but the answer is always the same… no spare beds,” he said.

Authorities in Norway have plunged the capital Oslo into a “social lockdown”.

All theatres, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools have been shut, while bars and restaurants are no longer permitted to serve alcohol.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has opened an investigation into the biosecurity of mink farms, after Denmark ordered a cull because of an outbreak of infections in the animals.

An expert said the species appeared to be much more susceptible to coronavirus than others.

But WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it was too early to say whether the mutated strain found in minks could have implications for a future vaccine.

"We don't have any evidence at the moment that it would,” she said.