Additional medical personnel and oxygen supplies are arriving on the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which are struggling with a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Sixty COVID-19 deaths were recorded in hospitals in Guadeloupe since August 9 — out of a total of 357 since the beginning of the pandemic. The incidence rate has shot up to 1,912 cases per 100,000 population with the Delta variant currently accounting for more than 92% of new cases.
At the university hospital, 40% of the beds are now occupied by COVID patients, and the morgue is saturated, Director-General Gérard Cotellon told AFP on Wednesday.
Nearly 70 patients are in intensive care units with the regional health agency (ARS) flagging that 98% of them were not vaccinated.
In Martinique, the incidence rate stood at 1,148 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Wednesday.
France's Dumont d'Urville navy ship arrived on the island on Wednesday to deliver more than 100 tonnes of medical oxygen. The island is not currently experiencing a shortage of oxygen, but requested additional supplies to prevent possible tensions, authorities said.
The ship is due to leave on Thursday to supply Guadeloupe.
The two islands also welcomed more than 100 healthcare workers from mainland France on Wednesday and more reinforcements are expected on Friday, the health ministry has said.
Medical evacuations are also expected to be stepped up. This is "more than necessary to relieve the services of the university hospital" in Guadeloupe, the head of the local ARS, Valérie Denux, told reporters.
According to her, the health ministry is currently finalising plans to transfer eleven patients in the coming days.
At the beginning of next week, "we will do another rotation and then we will accelerate the medical evacuations according to the needs because the wave is very strong and is catching up with us", she added, anticipating several evacuations per week.
Another rotation is to be carried out at the beginning of next week. "Then we will accelerate the medical evacuations according to the needs because the wave is very strong and is catching up with us," Denux said.
Only 20.9% of the adult population in Guadeloupe is fully vaccinated. In Martinique, 19.94% of people aged over 12 are now also fully protected.
Across the whole of France, 83% of adults have received at least one dose and 73% are fully jabbed.