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France is moving corona patients abroad

Almost two weeks after the start of the renewed curfew in France, an easing of the corona situation is currently not in sight. The capacity limits of the intensive care units have been reached in northern and central France - the first four patients from Lille were flown to the university clinic in Münster at the beginning of the week because the intensive care units in northern France are overloaded.

The hospitals in central France are reporting a similar situation. The "Grand Est" region in the east has just taken in several patients from the Auvergne. In the border region with Germany, the intensive care units are currently only just over 40 percent occupied.

The corona crisis has improved cooperation between Germany and France, believes MP Christophe Arend

But even in "Grand Est" the authorities assume that the pressure on the health system will increase in the coming days. The relocation of COVID-19 emergency patients to Germany should therefore relieve the hospitals. The first four patients were transferred from the Metz-Thionville regional hospital to clinics in Saarland last week. Does this mean the dramatic health emergency of March and April, when France flown more than 120 patients to Germany and also asked other neighboring countries for help?

Emergency aid to France

The current situation in eastern France is not comparable to that of spring, says Christophe Arend. The 45-year-old represents the Moselle region in the National Assembly and is co-chair of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly. "The hospitals here are currently not working at full capacity," says Arend. The patients are being transferred as a precaution in order to defuse a possible peak in the coming days.

Health system at the limit: nurse in an intensive care unit in Colombes near Paris

The Saarland has offered the French eight COVID-19 emergency places. According to a DW request from the Saarland State Chancellery, half of the places have already been taken. "When people are in need and need medical help, we shouldn't look at nationality," said Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans, describing the motivation. "We are in constant contact with the Saarland hospitals for the purpose of capacity, in which, by the way, many nurses from France look after Saarland patients every day."

Engagement of individual doctors

In view of the intensified corona development in Germany, the current support for France has so far been less than it was during the first wave of the pandemic in spring. At that time, more patients were transferred from eastern France to Germany than to other French parts of the country.

In March and April, not only the federal states bordering France admitted patients from the neighboring country, but also regions further away such as Lower Saxony or Saxony.

The unbureaucratic help for which Germany paid the costs was also made possible by the commitment of individuals. In the "Louis Pasteur" hospital in the Alsatian city of Colmar, for example, a doctor who studied medicine in Giessen played an important role.

Southern Alsace was hit particularly hard by the pandemic after a Christian week of prayer there became a "superspreader event". In Mulhouse, the French army even built a field hospital to ensure medical care for the many corona patients.

Strict exit restrictions have been in place throughout France for two weeks to reduce the number of people infected

Health care without borders

The politician Arend sees the fact that patients are now being brought back to Germany as proof of the good cooperation in the border region. There, medical care is no longer planned exclusively in national categories. In summer 2019, the Saar and Moselle regions signed the "Mosar" agreement for cross-border healthcare. This means that residents can also be treated in a hospital in the neighboring country without prior approval. It starts with French cardiology patients who are cared for in Saarland clinics. German patients, on the other hand, should be able to receive nuclear medicine care in France. You will be billed via the local health insurances.

"We have a contact person on each side who is familiar with the health system in the neighboring country - that works well," says Arend, summarizing the first experiences of the project. Corona has accelerated this exchange - and expanded it to new areas. This year, COVID patients from the Saarland could complete part of their rehab in France because the capacities there are greater.

Corona app as a problem

The fact that cross-border cooperation between Germany and France is working better in the current pandemic phase than in spring is also evident for the MP of the presidential party La République en Marche (LREM) in the lockdown restrictions on both sides. Unlike in March, this autumn the federal government decided not to unilaterally close the border to France. Even with the tightening of the corona restrictions, the better cooperation of the governments can be felt, so Arend. They took place at the same time and with a similar thrust.

Controversial Corona app: StopCovid has now been renamed AntiCovid - but the app is still not successful.

However, the communication problems of the Corona app give the politician a lot of stomach ache. With its central approach, France has taken a special European path that has now turned out to be a dead end. The app itself is considered a flop in view of the low number of downloads - and is incompatible with all apps in neighboring countries. "I have repeatedly drawn attention to this in letters to those responsible," says Arend. But a solution to the problem would probably require a completely new development of the app and a change of strategy - the government in Paris has not yet been able to bring itself to this.