Madrid hospital struggles with surge in virus cases

At Severo Ochoa hospital in a Madrid suburb badly-hit during the pandemic’s first wave, the intensive care unit is once again full and exhausted medics dread a repeat of the same “horror”.

“We’re swamped,” admits Ricardo Diaz Abad, head of intensive care at this hospital in Leganes, south-west of Madrid, standing in front of the unit’s 12 beds, all filled with gravely ill Covid-19 patients.

“Unfortunately we lost two patients” overnight, he tells AFP as nurses tend to the patients, who range in age from 54 to nearly 80, through a glass window.

Wearing white plastic suits, protective glasses, one or two masks, gloves and plastic shoe covers, the caregivers take turns to enter the unit.

Inside, the heavy silence is broken only by the hiss of the ventilator machines that help the patients breathe, their vitals monitored on a host of glowing computer screens.

Unlike the first wave when the hospital did not have enough beds for Covid patients, “we can now treat them because we have created space,” said Diaz Abad.

But staff fear once again being overwhelmed if infections continue to rise.

– ‘Even more tired’ –

When the pandemic hit in March, “the corridors were full of patients with oxygen bottles sitting on chairs,” said emergency doctor Luis Diaz Izquierdo, wearing a green gown and multicolour bandana, and with bags under his eyes.

“The first wave required a great physical and emotional effort… (now) we’re even more tired because we haven’t had time to completely recover.”

Madrid and the surrounding region has been the worst-hit area of Spain, where the virus has so far claimed nearly 34,000 lives.

At the height of the first wave in March, hospitals were swamped and officials turned a Madrid ice rink into a temporary morgue to cope with the surge in deaths.

Near the city’s Barajas airport, an army of cranes is working round the clock to build a new hospital — expected to open in November — designed to deal with the pandemic.

To try and slow the spread of the virus, a partial lockdown was imposed in early October on the capital and several satellite towns like Leganes.

But many healthcare workers feel the restrictions are not enough to slow the surge of patient arrivals.

At the hospital entrance, posters call for protests, saying: “No more avoidable deaths”.

Sonia Carballeira, a 39-year-old nurse, said the “workload sometimes prevents us from making all the video calls that we would like” between patients and relatives who cannot visit in person.

– ‘Learned little’ –

“We expected a second wave would occur but not so soon, since the flu season hasn’t yet started,” she says at the entrance to the hospital’s “Covid zone” where 48 patients are being treated.

Inside, 61-year-old patient Manuel Collazo Velasco still can’t get over how the virus has altered his sense of taste.

“It has no sugar yet I find it very, very sweet,” he said while eating natural yoghurt.

In another room, Carmen

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World Struggles as Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Pass 40 Million | World News

By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer

LONDON (AP) — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the planet has surpassed 40 million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true impact of the pandemic that has upended life and work around the world.

The milestone was hit Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, which collates reports from around the world.

The actual worldwide tally of COVID-19 cases is likely to be far higher, as testing has been uneven or limited, many people have had no symptoms and some governments have concealed the true number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed virus deaths have been reported, although experts also believe that number is an undercount.

The U.S., India and Brazil are reporting by far the highest numbers of cases — 8.1 million, 7.5 million and 5.2 million respectively — although the global increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe, which has seen over 240,000 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic so far.

In the U.S., some states are trying more targeted measures as cases continue to rise across the country. New York’s new round of virus shutdowns zeroes in on individual neighborhoods, closing schools and businesses in hot spots measuring just a couple of square miles.

As of last week, new cases per day were on the rise in 44 U.S. states, with many of the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to wearing masks and taking other precautions has been running high and the virus has often been seen as just a big-city problem. Deaths per day were climbing in 30 states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said Americans should think hard about whether to hold Thanksgiving gatherings next month.

The World Health Organization said last week that Europe had a reported a record weekly high of nearly 700,000 cases and said the region was responsible for about a third of cases globally. Britain, France, Russia and Spain account for about half of all new cases in the region, and countries like Belgium and the Czech Republic are facing more intense outbreaks now than they did in the spring.

WHO said the new measures being taken across Europe are “absolutely essential” in stopping COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. Those include new requirements on mask-wearing in Italy and Switzerland, closing schools in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, closing restaurants and bars in Belgium, implementing a 9 p.m. curfew in France and having targeted limited lockdowns in parts of the U.K.

The agency said several European cities could soon see their intensive care units overwhelmed and warned that governments and citizens should take all necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including bolstering testing and contact tracing, wearing face masks and following social distancing measures.

WHO has previously estimated about 1 in 10 of the world’s population — about 780 million people —

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