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Paris hospital fears being overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases increase

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By Anelise Borges
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Virus Outbreak France
Virus Outbreak France   -   Copyright  Francois Mori/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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A medical chief in Paris has told Euronews his hospital's intensive care unit will lack "people, beds and ventilators" if patient numbers continue to rise.

Philippe Juvin said the European Hospital Georges-Pompidou in the French capital had seen a significant increase in arrivals to its emergencies department in recent days.

“The worst is to become overwhelmed in our intensive care beds and not be able to offer each sick patient the care we would normally be able to provide," said Juvin, who heads up the hospital's emergencies department.

It comes as Paris and its region is being hit hard by the outbreak. It now has the highest number of coronavirus infections in the country.

Nationwide there has been nearly 2,000 deaths. At present 15,732 patients are hospitalised, with 3,787 in intensive care.

Juvin said under normal circumstances, just 15 per cent of people who show up in the emergency room would get admitted to the hospital, receiving a bed and around the clock care.

Now, with most patients sick with COVID-19, it's around 50 per cent.

"[That] shows how sick they are," he said. "And a small number of those need to go to intensive care. The wave rises every day."

Doctors in Paris fear finding themselves in a similar position to those in Italy or eastern France, where people are being treated in hallways or makeshift military hospitals, like the one in Mulhouse near the Swiss border. Caring for patients under those conditions becomes extremely difficult and the decisions over who gets which equipment are painful.

Frederic Valletoux, president of the French Hospitals Federation, told BFM-TV on Friday that hospitals in Paris and its region are close to their limits and could reach breaking point within the next two days. He suggested moving patients from the hardest-hit hospitals to other regions or even other European countries to share the burden.

"If each hospital, each region is left to fend for itself, we will see catastrophes," said Valletoux.

Paris, like the rest of France, has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks. It was announced on Friday the confinement would be extended until 15 April.

Last Tuesday, the restrictions were tightened, closing almost all open-air markets and limiting the time people can spend exercising outdoors.

It's left the streets empty. Parisians hurry to the grocery store, jog alone, and cross the road to avoid walking past each other, leaving the iconic boulevards largely deserted.

But even in the face of dark days, some lights refuse to go out. Starting on Friday, the Eiffel Tower — closed to visitors and with an empty Champs-de-Mars in front of it — will begin paying tribute to all front-line workers fighting the virus. At 20 h every night, the moment people usually lean out from their windows and balconies to cheer, clap and thank nurses and doctors, the tower will now light up with the same message: "Merci".