Germany sends doctors and ventilators to help Portugal with COVID-19 crisis

FILE PHOTO: A COVID-19 patient transferred from Lisbon arrives at Nelio Mendonca Hospital in Funchal, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Funchal, on the island of Madeira, Portugal, January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Duarte Sa

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s military will send more than 20 doctors and nurses to Portugal, where space in hospital intensive care units is running out after a surge in coronavirus infections.

“We support our friends in Portugal who find themselves in an especially dramatic situation,” Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Monday.

A plane carrying 26 doctors, nurses and hygiene experts as well as 40 mobile and 10 stationary ventilators will leave for Lisbon on Wednesday, according to a statement by the defence ministry.

Portugal, which said on Saturday that only seven of 850 ICU beds set up for COVID-19 cases on its mainland were vacant, asked the German government for help.

Hospitals across the country of just over 10 million appear on the verge of collapse, with ambulances queuing sometimes for hours for lack of beds and some health units struggling to find enough refrigerated space to preserve the bodies of the deceased.

The German military team will also bring 150 hospital beds to Portugal and aims to stay initially for three weeks, the Berlin defence ministry said.

“The coronavirus is a challenge for us all, and the German health care system is under pressure too,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

“Nevertheless, we are convinced that especially in times like these European solidarity is indispensable,” she added.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alistair Bell