Europe's hospitals under major stress as coronavirus cases surge
Europe's hospital systems are at risk of buckling under the strain of soaring numbers of COVID-19 infections that have put the continent once again at the centre of the global pandemic.
With case numbers that were brought largely under control by the unprecedented lockdowns in March and April now resurging relentlessly, authorities in countries from Poland to Portugal have expressed mounting alarm at the renewed crisis confronting their health infrastructure.
A nurse looks after a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Essen, Germany this week.Credit:Getty Images
Belgium, struggling with what its health minister called a "tsunami" of infections, is postponing all non-essential hospital procedures, and similar measures are looming in other countries where case numbers have been rising relentlessly.
"If the rhythm of the past week continues, rescheduling and suspending some non-priority activities will become unavoidable," said Julio Pascual, medical director at Barcelona's Hospital del Mar.
To complicate the situation, widespread coronavirus fatigue and the frightening economic impact of the crisis have eroded broad public support for the lockdowns ordered earlier in the year to stop health services from being overwhelmed.
Unwilling to shut down their countries again, governments have sought less drastic measures to limit public gatherings and balance the need to keep their economies turning with holding back the pandemic.
According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Europe has registered more than 5 million cases and 200,000 deaths, with new cases beginning to spike sharply from the end of September. Reuters
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'It has hit us with a vengeance': Coronavirus surges again across the United States
As the coronavirus races across the United States, it has reached every corner of a nursing home in Kansas, infecting all 62 residents inside. There are so few hospital beds available in North Dakota that patients sick with the virus are being ferried by ambulance to facilities 160 kilometres away. And in Ohio, more people are hospitalised with the virus than at any other time during the pandemic.
After weeks of warnings that cases were again on the rise, a third surge of coronavirus infection has firmly taken hold in the United States. The nation is averaging 59,000 new cases a day, the most since the beginning of August, and the country is on pace to record the most new daily cases of the entire pandemic in the coming days.
A medical staff member performs a Covid-19 test outside the Family Healthcare building in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.Credit:Bloomberg
But if earlier surges were defined by acute and concentrated outbreaks – in the Northeast this spring, and in the South during the summer – the virus is now simmering at a worrisome level across nearly the entire country. Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming each set seven-day case records on Tuesday. Even New Jersey, once a model for bringing the virus under control, has seen cases double over the past month.
"It is a really dangerous time," said Dr Tom Inglesby, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"The majority of states are on the rise," he said. And at the same time, "there are very few places where things are stable and going down."
The latest wave threatens to be the worst of the pandemic yet, coming as cooler weather is forcing people indoors and as many Americans report feeling exhausted by months of restrictions. Unlike earlier waves, which were met with shutdown orders and mask mandates, the country has shown little appetite for widespread new restrictions. The New York Times
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Alerts for Bathurst 1000 after virus found in raw sewage
NSW Health is also warning Bathurst residents to be vigilant after remnants of the COVID-19 virus was found in raw sewage.
Attendees of the Bathurst 1000 race or locals who live in the area are being urged to monitor for symptoms and get tested as soon as possible after remnants of the COVID-19 virus were detected in raw sewage in the area on Wednesday.
A general view of the Bathurst 1000 event on Sunday, October 18.Credit:Getty Images
"The sample comprises wastewater from over the past weekend, and could indicate current or a previous infection in someone who attended or worked at the Bathurst 1000 motor race, a visitor to Bathurst, or even a local resident," a statement from the department read.
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Two Melbourne schools closed as social housing residents self-isolate
Residents across some of Melbourne's northern suburbs, including Dallas, Roxburgh Park, Broadmeadows, Preston and West Heidelberg, have been urged to get tested for COVID-19 after two schools were closed for cleaning yesterday.
One student at East Preston Islamic College tested positive to coronavirus and a close contact was identified at Dallas Brooks Primary School.
The outbreak has also been linked to cases at a social housing block in Broadmeadows, where 120 residents have been asked to self-isolate for 48 hours, monitor symptoms and get tested.
"This timeframe allows for the department to ensure the community is aware of the situation and for residents to get tested and get their results back before determining what the next steps are," Victoria’s commander of testing and community engagement, Jeroen Weimar, said.
"We’re asking all these residents to come forward for asymptomatic testing at the dedicated testing station on site."
The East Preston Islamic College has been closed for deep cleaning after it was revealed a student who was supposed to be self-isolating as they were a close contact of a positive case had attended school due to a misunderstanding.
"The college has taken positive steps to manage this situation and is working closely with us. It has been closed for deep cleaning," Mr Weimar said.
"We need everyone working together to tackle this virus, and that’s exactly what the school community is doing. Staff and students who are close contacts – and their households – have been identified and are quarantining for 14 days.
"Extensive contact tracing is underway and we expect that as part of this work, additional cases will be detected."
The Dallas Brooks Primary School has also been closed for deep cleaning.
A text message was sent to residents in the northern suburbs, urging them to get tested if they experienced any symptoms.
Pop-up testing sites and a community outreach program will be launched today.
Banyule Community Health and Himilo Community Connect will doorknock the area on Thursday to alert residents to the outbreak and provide information about testing and supports like financial assistance for missing work.
"We’re asking everyone who lives in this area or who has loved ones linked to these suburbs to please get tested if they have symptoms and to share this information within their families and broader community," Mr Weimar said.
Good morning and welcome to our rolling coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
It's the last day of the working week for Melburnians, who will belatedly celebrate the AFL grand final public holiday tomorrow with quiet streets and empty pubs.
It's just a usual Friday for the rest of Australia, however "normal" looks for you these days.
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