The Czech Republic will start building capacity for COVID-19 patients outside of hospitals, government officials said on Thursday, as the country battles the fastest rate of infections in Europe.
Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told CTK news agency the army would start building an area for 500 hospital beds at a fairground in Prague from Saturday.
Both military and healthcare personnel will staff the makeshift hospital, Hamacek told Czech television.
COVID-19 infections have nearly doubled in October alone to a total so far of 139,290 in a country with a population of 10.7 million. The Health Ministry reported 9,544 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its highest one-day tally so far.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters it was necessary to start building extra capacity and that the state would purchase 4,000 beds from hospital and nursing bed maker LINET.
Hospitals are treating six times as many virus patients as during the first wave, with other surgeries being cancelled and plans being drawn up for patients to be exported to Germany, Hungary, or Poland.
The government, criticised by medical professionals for acting slowly, has said thousands of medical students would be called up to help.
“We don’t have time, the outlook is not good. These numbers are catastrophic,” Babis said.
The number of hospitalisations has risen 161% in October to 2,678, with 518 patients in intensive care. Deaths have climbed to 1,172, up 75% this month.
‘We can physically add beds, I expect we would get equipment as well, but there is nowhere to find personnel,’ said Martin Zatloukal, head of intensive care at one hospital south of Prague.
‘There will have to be reduction in care, just due to the numbers of infected… We are all hoping this will not take the path of a catastrophic scenario.’
At another 314-bed hospital in Slany, near Prague, construction workers were hurrying this week to convert a general ward for Covid-19 patients, increasing the number of special beds to 29 from the current 12.
The hospital’s intensive care ward, which has five beds, has also been fully designated for COVID.
‘We are getting ready for a surge in patient numbers,’ Slany hospital director Stepan Votocek said.