With a coronavirus spike that has put hospitals at the limit of their capacity, Portugal will send its Covid-19 patients to intensive care in Austria, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on his social networks on Sunday.
The Portuguese government has yet to comment on the transfer.
It is not yet known how many people will be transferred, but the move is a sign of “European solidarity”, he said. “The pandemic presents great challenges for all European countries,” added Kurz, recalling that the country had already received patients from Italy, France and Montenegro when these countries experienced their peak health crises.
According to Kurz, the decision to help Portugal came after a conversation with Prime Minister António Costa. On Saturday (30), the Portuguese government reported that only seven of the 850 intensive care unit beds created for Covid cases were vacant.
In addition to Austrian aid, Portugal will receive reinforcements from Germany. The Defense Ministry also announced on Sunday that the German armed forces will send medical teams and equipment to the country.
Details of the aid are expected to be announced early next week, according to a German government spokesperson.
Der Spiegel magazine said the military was planning to send 27 medics and paramedics who are expected to stay on Portuguese soil for three weeks. Fixed and mobile ventilators will also be sent, as well as field beds for patients.
According to data tracker Our World in Data, Portugal is the country with the highest seven-day average of cases and deaths per capita in the world. In the past 24 hours, it has recorded 293 deaths and 12,435 new infections.
In total, the country has more than 711,000 cases and 12,179 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As part of its strategy to deal with the crisis, Portugal has also suspended all flights to or from Brazil – the measure has been in effect since Friday (29) and is initially valid until February 14.
In a note, the Ministry of Internal Administration justified the decision by citing “the increase in cases of Sars-CoV-2 infection in Portugal and the detection of new strains of the virus”.
The exception concerns “humanitarian flights for the purpose of repatriation of nationals and members of their families, as well as holders of a residence permit in Portugal”, and quarantine is required after arrival in the country.