Coronavirus: France moves patients on high-speed trains to ease pressure on worst-hit hospitals

Thirty-six critically-ill coronavirus patients have been transferred across France in two high-speed trains.

They were transported from eastern France, where hospitals risk becoming overwhelmed, to the Nouvelle-Acquitaine region in the southwest.

“We urgently need to relieve congestion in the region’s intensive care units, because you have to stay one step ahead,” Francois Braun, head of SAMU paramedics, told RTL radio.

Carriages carrying 36 people were specially converted, and a line of ambulances waited outside Bordeaux station on their arrival.

Paramedics in hazmat suits also loaded several patients on life-support onto a German Airbus A400M aircraft in Strasbourg and transferred them across the border to the German city of Ulm.

The first region to be hit by coronavirus was Grand Est in northeastern France, before the pandemic moved west and began to engulf the Paris area.

French health authorities reported another 292 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday – a 13% rise on the previous day.

The total number of deaths since 1 March is now 2,606, with known infections reaching 40,174.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned the country’s 67 million people that the toughest weeks are still ahead.

Ventilators are being removed from operating theatres and student doctors are being drafted in.

As in the UK, retired doctors are returning to the wards.

President Emmanuel Macron has brought in the army to help move those unwell with COVID-19, while a field hospital has been set up in the eastern city of Mulhouse.

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