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The TGV train began transporting about 20 COVID-19 patients from Strasbourg, the capital city of the hard-hit Grand Est region, to less-strained hospitals in the Pays-de-la-Loire and other regions Thursday morning.
The government is calling the innovation a “first in Europe.”
In each of the medicalized train’s five cars, an anesthesiologist-resuscitator, an intern, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses tend to the sick.
The restaurant car, converted to a medical operations center, has stretchers attached to seats, the Telegraph reported.
"We need to enable our health system to treat in the best conditions the greatest number of patients," said health minister Olivier Véran.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of 1,331 in France – almost half died in the hospitals of the Grand Est region. The number of sick climbed to 25,604 on Thursday.
France plans to deploy helicopters in overseas territories to transport the sick; it already has used military planes and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean to evacuate the infected.
The increased need for military forces to help fight the outbreak at home led France to suspend its anti-terrorism training operations in Iraq and pull out its Iraq-based troops involved in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
France will still maintain military operations in Kuwait and Qatar, and air force missions over Syria, the chief of staff of the French armed forces said in a statement Wednesday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.