Together with a lot of the world, France has gone into lockdown mode to stem the unfold of the novel coronavirus. Residents are staying at home, planes on the tarmac, cars in garages. The nationwide railroad has whittled service to a minimal, but it surely despatched a TGV high-speed prepare from Strasbourg to Angers, within the Loire Valley, Thursday morning. The manifest, nonetheless, was most uncommon: As a substitute of the greater than 500 passengers that usually match into the double-decker, it carried 20 Covid-19 sufferers.
The aim of the “TGV medicalisé” was to take the strain off hospitals in France’s Grand Est area, alongside the German and Belgian borders, the place practically 6,000 Covid-19 instances have been confirmed. Solely the Paris space, with about 7,600 instances, has extra inside France, in line with the nationwide well being company. With fewer than 400 instances, the Loire area has medical capability to spare. (Nationwide, France had reported 25,223 instances and 1,331 Covid-19 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.) Because the virus strikes by the nation—and the world—like a wave, French officers hope to maximise their medical assets by shifting sufferers from arduous hit areas to calmer ones. “The concept is to play on these gaps,” mission chief Lionel Lamhaut advised staff in a video published by Le Maine Libre.
These first 20 sufferers, all in steady situation, traveled in prepare automobiles that the railroad and France’s EMT service, SAMU, had transformed into rolling intensive care models, stocked with tools and staffed by help staff. EMTs stacked oxygen bottles within the baggage racks and lay stretchers throughout seat tops, securing them with orange cords they ran round armrests and seat legs. Ambulances carrying sufferers from native hospitals drove onto the prepare platform, the place medical staff wearing face masks, protecting robes, and goggles introduced them aboard. Every retrofitted automobile carried 4 sufferers and 6 medical staff.
Trains work properly as shifting hospitals, Lamhaut mentioned. They’re extra spacious than ambulances and helicopters, and may easily speed up and decelerate, limiting jostling. Because of the standard rails that enable for prepare speeds north of 200 mph, onboard docs and nurses can do the identical sorts of labor they do in correct hospitals, SAMU chief François Braun told TV channel France 2. And whereas this prepare—operated by railway staffers who had volunteered for the mission—didn’t run at full pace, NPR reports, it made the roughly 500-mile journey to Angers in about 5 hours.
Trains have been used to move the injured and sick because the 1850s, often for troopers in wartime. However France’s EMT service had ready for civilian, emergency use. Final Might, it ran a drill changing a passenger prepare right into a rolling emergency care unit. Groups have been evacuating “victims” from a fake terrorist assault, Paris SAMU head Pierre Carli said at the time. “However there may very well be a technological disaster, or victims of an epidemic.”
Offered that this primary mission went off with none main issues, French officers count on to repeat the feat—and make that coaching train all of the extra precious.
Extra From WIRED on Covid-19