Red Cross warns: Vigilance needed as Europe’s intensive care beds fill up

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*Budapest/Geneva, 22 October 2020 -- *The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned people not to take their foot off the brake as hospital intensive care units in many cities across Europe near capacity.

Last week the number of cases reported in Europe was almost three times higher than during the first peak in March.[1]

The IFRC's Regional Director, Europe, Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen said Europe's alarming second wave shows there has never been a more critical moment to maintain vigilance and practise prevention.

"The Europe region has the second highest death toll after the Americas and the fastest increasing death rate in the world,[2]" Ms Ebbesen said. "There's a big jump in hospitalisations and many countries are reporting they will reach their intensive care bed capacity in the coming weeks."

Hospitals have reportedly reached capacity in parts of Belgium and are filling up in Czech Republic, France, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.

IFRC Regional Health and Care Coordinator Dr Davron Mukhamadiev said; "Reports show that along with hospitalisations increasing, time spent in hospital is two to three times longer." He warns extra deaths will follow as people will be unable to receive treatment for pre-existing and chronic conditions such as HIV, TB, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Other concerns include the increasing, unrelenting pressure on healthcare workers, and with intensive care beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients, added difficulties for hospitals in managing the increase in seasonal flu as the colder weather approaches.

With up to 3.5 million severe cases of seasonal influenza worldwide, and up to 650,000 respiratory-related deaths each year[3], Ms Ebbesen said all of us can play our part in trying to halt the further transmission of viruses.

"The best thing people can do right now is to have their flu shots, and be vigilant with hygiene; wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, cover coughs and maximise ventilation. "We know from the work Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies are doing across Europe and our research[4] that mental health concerns are soaring with months of restrictions, so be kind to yourself, and to each other."

[1] World Health Organisation

[2] World Health Organisation

[3] World Health Organisation

[4] IFRC and ICRC research, COVID and mental health