Germany sends patients abroad as Covid heaps strain on hospitals

Berlin, Nov 18 (EFE).- German hospitals are being pushed to the limit amid an ongoing surge of Covid-19 infections, prompting healthcare workers in Munich to send patients for treatment in Italy.

Another 65,000 infections were added to Germany’s overall caseload on Thursday and, according to the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, out of 400 health districts, 100 have just one ICU bed free while 50 are at capacity.

Although the total number of ICU patients is lower than at the peak of the second and third Covid waves — 3,400 compared to 5,700 and 5,100 respectively — a shortage of staff means the situation is more acute.

It is especially being felt in Bavaria and Baden-Württenberg. Last week, two patients were airlifted from a hospital in Munich to northern Italy, according to the director of the city’s Freising hospital Rainald Kaube.

Faced with the ferocious fourth wave of Covid-19, German lawmakers on Thursday recommended a return to working from home and paved the way for new restrictions requiring people to be vaccinated or to present proof of a negative test or natural immunity to access the workplace and public transport.

The new measures could yet be shot down or altered in the upper chamber of parliament.

The situation is equally bleak for some of Germany’s neighbors, including Austria, where a targeted lockdown on the unvaccinated, introduced Monday, has yet to dull a recent surge in cases.

Health authorities reported a daily record of 15,145 new cases Thursday, pushing the incident rate to 988.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Experts attribute the rise in cases to the country’s relatively low full vaccination rate — which hovers around 66% — as well as the gradual waning of vaccine efficiency over time.

Targeted restrictions on the unvaccinated, in place for two weeks, were designed to boost jab uptake. In that time, the number of people getting first doses has grown but it pales in comparison to the percentage of vaccines being given as booster shots, which accounted for 65% of administered jabs, compared to 21% for first doses and 13% for second doses.

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