France evacuates coronavirus patients from swamped hospitals using high-speed trains, military planes

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France evacuated dozens of coronavirus patients from overwhelmed hospitals in its hardest-hit region on Sunday, using two high-speed trains, military helicopters and a German military plane.

The converted trains carried 36 patients from Grand Est region, in northeastern France, to less-strained hospitals in the southwestern Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, Reuters reported.

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France first transported coronavirus patients out of the Grand Est region aboard a high-speed TGS train last week. Each train car had stretchers mounted across the seats and they were manned by an anesthesiologist-resuscitator, an intern, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses.

France called the medicalized high-speed train "a first in Europe" last week.

France called the medicalized high-speed train "a first in Europe" last week. (Ministry of the Interior / J. Groissard)

“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 the SAMU paramedics, told RTL radio.

Germany stepped in to aid the swamped hospitals of their European neighbor, sending a German Luftwaffe Airbus A400M to Strasbourg airport in eastern France to evacuate COVID-19 patients.

A German Luftwaffe Airbus A400M sits on the tarmac on the Strasbourg airport to evacuate French patients affected with the Covid-19 disease. (Tanhao Stadel/Dicod via AP)

A German Luftwaffe Airbus A400M sits on the tarmac on the Strasbourg airport to evacuate French patients affected with the Covid-19 disease. (Tanhao Stadel/Dicod via AP)

Paramedics wearing protective gear loaded patients on life-support aboard the airbus, which later landed in Stuttgart. The patients were expected to be treated in Ulm, Germany.

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French military helicopters also transported patients from the northeastern city of Metz for treatment at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany.

A coronavirus patient from Metz in France is transported from a military helicopter for treatment at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

A coronavirus patient from Metz in France is transported from a military helicopter for treatment at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

The Grand Est region was the first part of the country hit with a wave of COVID-19, which has killed hundreds in that region alone, as the disease spread westward.

President Emmanuel Macron last week enlisted the military to build a field hospital to help treat the increasing number of sick in Mulhouse, a northeastern city near the German border.

France's number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to at least 40,723 on Monday, while the death toll rose to 2,606.

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As the death toll climbed, health workers in France received a huge show of gratitude — from the Eiffel Tower. “Merci,” French for ‘Thank you,” and “Stay at home” in English were emblazoned in lights at night on Paris’ world-famous landmark.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.