Czechs seek help abroad to treat their COVID-19 patients

Virus Outbreak Czech Republic

PRAGUE (AP) — With hospitals in some parts of the Czech Republic filled up, the country has turned to Germany and other European countries with a request for help.

The Czech Republic, one of the hardest-hit European Union countries, has been facing a surge of new cases attributed to a highly infectious coronavirus variant that is believed to originate in Britain.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Wednesday neighboring Germany has offered dozens of beds in its hospitals to treat Czech COVID-19 patients. He said 19 of them were immediately ready.

Hamacek said that Switzerland was another country ready to help with 20 beds in its hospitals while offering to take care of the transport of the patients.

Talks were also underway with Poland to provide around 200 beds.

After the day-to-day increase of new confirmed cases reached 16,642 on Tuesday, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic, a record of more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients needed hospitalization.

Some hospitals in western Czech Republic near the German border, the central part of the country around Prague and the Pardubice region east of Prague couldn't admit anymore patients and they have to be transported to clinics elsewhere in the country. It wasn't immediately clear when patients might be taken abroad.

“It’s a situation we’ve never experienced before,” Martin Netolicky, the governor of the Pardubice region told Czech public radio about the full hospitals.

Calling the situation in hospitals “critical,” Health Minister Jan Blatny said the government approved his plan to make it possible to order medical personnel, except general practitioners and gynecologists', from outpatient clinics to serve in hospitals, starting Thursday.

“We have to mobilize all our reserves,” Blatny said.

In the latest measures, the government ordered mandatory mass testing of employees in private firms. Those with more than 250 workers started to do it on Wednesday while those with at least 50 employees follow on Friday.

Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek said he was planning to propose the same measures for public employees.

With 1,120 cases, the Czech Republic had by far the biggest 14-day notification rate per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The nation of 10.7 million has nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases with almost 21,000 deaths.

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