Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP Via Getty Images
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Setting up makeshift ICU wards in libraries and conference centers, embattled European medical workers strained Friday to save thousands of desperately ill coronavirus patients as stocks of medicine, protective equipment and breathing machines grew shorter by the hour.
Europe’s three worst-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — have surpassed 30,000 dead, more than half of the global toll.
One Spanish hospital has turned its library into a makeshift intensive care unit. In France, space was set aside for bodies in a vast food market. The French prime minister said he is “fighting hour by hour” to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep COVID-19 patients alive.
Philippe Montravers, an anesthesiologist in Paris, said medics are preparing to fall back on older drugs, such as the opiates fentanyl and morphine, that had fallen out of favor, because newer painkillers are in short supply.
“The work is extremely tough and heavy,” he said. “We’ve had doctors, nurses, caregivers who got sick, infected … but who have come back after recovering. It’s a bit like those World War I soldiers who were injured and came back to fight.”
In a vast exhibition center in Madrid that was hastily converted into a 1,300-bed field hospital, bed No. 01.30 held patient Esteban Pinaredo, aged 87.
“I’m good, I love you,” Pinaredo told his family via Skype. “I will run away as soon as I can.”
The makeshift facility’s organizer, Antonio Zapatero, said Spain’s nationwide lockdown must be maintained.
“Otherwise, this is what you are facing,” he said, pointing at the rows of beds.
Prince Charles opens care facility
Britain’s Prince Charles remotely opened a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients at London’s main exhibition center Friday that can accommodate up to 4,000 people.
Charles, who on Monday completed a week of self-isolation while recovering from COVID-19, said via video link that he was “enormously touched” to be asked to open the new Nightingale Hospital, which was built in just over a week at the vast ExCel conference center in east London.
“An example, if ever one was needed, of how the impossible could be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity,” he said from his home in Scotland, Birkhall.
Berlin faults U.S. on protective gear
Berlin’s top security official accused the United States of using “Wild West methods” to obtain protective equipment. The claim came after a delivery of face masks destined for the German capital was diverted en route from China.
German media reported Friday that hundreds of thousands of masks purchased from manufacturer 3M and intended for Berlin police were diverted to the U.S. as they were being transferred between planes in Thailand.
Berlin officials confirmed that about 200,000 masks already paid for by Germany were seized at a Bangkok airport and didn’t reach their intended destination.
Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, says the diversion of the masks is “an act of modern piracy. This is no way to treat trans-Atlantic partners.”
“Even in times of global crisis, there should be no Wild West methods,” Geisel said. The U.S. embassy in Berlin didn’t immediately comment.
Merchants return to virus epicenter
Sidewalk vendors wearing face masks and gloves sold food to shoppers Friday in the city where the coronavirus pandemic began as Chinese leaders try to revive the world’s second-largest economy.
Authorities are easing controls that kept Wuhan’s 11 million people at home for two months, but many shops are still closed.
Residents have been relying on online groceries and government-organized food deliveries after most access to the city was suspended Jan. 23 and restaurants, shops and other businesses shut down.
Border closures hamper aid efforts
More than half of Africa’s 54 countries have closed land, air and sea borders to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The restrictions are so widespread that concern is rising about getting needed items to desperate people. The World Food Program says it had to negotiate a humanitarian corridor ahead of South Africa’s lockdown to allow food aid to flow to other southern African nations.
Coronavirus cases across Africa are now above 7,000 and numbers are expected to leap in the coming weeks.
Chronicle News Services