Ambulances queue at hospitals as virus surge slams Portugal
(Sourced from PTI)
Ambulances waiting to deliver COVID-19 patients queued outside hospital emergency departments on Friday as Portugal's COVID-19 surge continued unabated. The country added a new record of daily deaths for the fifth day in a row. "The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and patients in intensive care reached new highs over the past 24 hours, placing the public health system under severe strain," health authorities said.
Authorities reported 234 deaths, bringing the total in the country of 10.3 million to 9,920. Hospitals added another 149 COVID-19 patients to their wards, with another 13 in ICUs. Hospital COVID-19 wards and ICUs are around 90 percent full on average. The almost 14,000 officially reported new cases were the second-highest during the pandemic.
Portugal has the highest seven-day average rate in the world of new cases per 100,000 population and the highest rate of new deaths, according to data collated through Thursday by Johns Hopkins University.
At Lisbon's Santa Maria Hospital, more than a dozen ambulances queued along an approach road, waiting to hand over COVID-19 patients to medics. At some hospitals, ambulance drivers have complained about waiting for hours. At Santa Maria, the hospital's head of the COVID-19 emergency response, Anabela Oliveira said, "Staff was working under brutal pressure. The hospital has been receiving overflow patients from other hospitals."
"The public health service will collapse if these numbers keep coming and if we remain under this pressure," Oliveira told reporters outside the hospital. This is the most critical moment of the pandemic. Officials said doctors were checking the needs of patients in the ambulances to see whether they were urgent cases and that the hospital was close to its limit.
Portugal's Government blames the surge on the appearance of a more contagious variant first identified in southeast England. As a result, it will stop flights to and from the United Kingdom from Saturday. The move came after the British Government halted flights to and from Portugal to prevent a variant found in Brazil from reaching the UK. Portuguese Government had labeled that decision absurd.
After a video summit of European Union leaders late on Thursday, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced that only repatriation flights for citizens wanting to return home would be allowed between Portugal and the UK.