Coronavirus patients fill wards at French and Spanish hotspots where intensive care units could be “saturated” within three weeks – but hospital cases across the country are nowhere near as disastrous as they were in March and April.
French hospital cases are up 28 percent in one month, with 5,800 people currently being treated, while Spanish hospitals admitted 10,800 people in four weeks – more than the last three months combined.
Older people are still the most vulnerable. Over 60s make up the majority of recent admissions in Spain and more than three-quarters of current hospital patients in France.
In crisis areas such as Madrid, Marseille and Bordeaux, some intensive care units are working to full capacity and emergency facilities are starting to re-emerge as doctors prepare for the second wave of falls.
Parts of Madrid were locked down today, while the French Science Council warned of “tough decisions” within days as the two governments grapple with the new outbreak.
The UK's rebound in certain instances has raised fears that the UK is headed in a similar direction and ministers are warned that the UK could be about six weeks behind Spain.
Across France and Spain, however, hospital capacity is far higher than in the spring: Madrid's virus patients fill 22 percent of hospital beds, compared to 100 percent in early April, while France has thousands of free intensive care beds and only a fifth as many hospital patients as in April.
And while the death toll has risen in both countries, there has been no return to the hundreds of daily deaths that became the norm six months ago.
HOSPITAL APPROVALS: In France and Spain, both cases in hospitals have increased, with the elderly being particularly affected. The numbers, however, are nowhere near the March and April levels
ADMISSION IN THE ICU: While the intensive care units in hotspots such as Madrid and Marseille are reaching a crisis level, both countries have far more capacities overall than in spring
In Spain, at least 10,800 people have been hospitalized since August 20, compared with 7,000 in the last three months combined.
However, at the height of the crisis in the spring, up to 23,000 people were being admitted each week, with hundreds dying every day.
In early April, Covid patients filled 100 percent of the hospital beds in Madrid with temporary facilities in corridors, libraries and gyms outside the main wards.
Now only 22 percent of hospital beds in the capital are occupied by coronavirus patients – although the number has almost doubled from 10 percent a month ago.
In Spain as a whole, the situation is somewhat better, with 8.7 percent of the beds now being taken by Covid patients, compared with 4.4 percent in mid-August.
The story is similar in intensive care units: last month, 875 people were admitted across Spain, and between May and August there were 477.
But the numbers are still significantly lower than the 1,520 people who were in intensive care on April 5, the worst day of the crisis.
The hospitals in Madrid treat nearly 400 people in intensive care units and fill more than 40 percent of the beds in the intensive care unit in Madrid.
"It's like March in a way, but in slow motion," said Dr. Carlos Velayos, an intensive care doctor in a hospital in the suburbs of Madrid.
Velayos said predictive models were telling Madrid hospital administrators that some intensive care units could reach maximum capacity before the end of September.
"In March it was like an atomic bomb that brought the entire health system to collapse in a matter of weeks," said Velayos.
“We may not be there yet, but that's no reason not to worry. We have allowed the outbreaks to become uncontrollable. & # 39;
The R rate in Madrid is estimated to be around 1.08 compared to 0.97 in Spain as a whole, and the region alone accumulates thousands of cases per day.
SPAIN CASES: A recovery in infections and an intensified testing program have resulted in a huge increase in confirmed cases in Spain, reaching levels higher than in the spring
The death toll in Spain has risen in the last few weeks, with more than 100 new deaths in a few days, but the levels are still well below those of March and April
A partial lockdown begins this week in some of Madrid's poorer districts, affecting around 850,000 people.
Access to parks and public areas will be restricted, gatherings will be limited to six people, and commercial facilities will have to close by 10 p.m.
The new measures sparked an outbreak of protest on Sunday. People held signs saying "No to a class-based lockdown".
"We think they are laughing at us a little," said nurse Bethania Perez when hundreds protested the measure.
Velayos Hospital is expanding its intensive care capacity from 12 to 24 beds by the end of September as they are all filling up with coronavirus patients.
Operating theaters have been converted into intensive care units and operations have been postponed as hospitals vie to recruit doctors exhausted from the first wave of the crisis.
Regional authorities say the health system still has room to manage the inbound flow of patients and that medical workers are better prepared.
The Madrid government is spending 50 million euros to build a huge new "epidemic hospital" with more than 1,000 beds by the end of October.
Meanwhile, Zaragoza health officials have begun setting up field hospitals in a grim echo of the worst days of the pandemic.
In Spain, too, the death rate has risen somewhat, although the numbers are again well below those in the spring.
The death toll rose 748 last week from 329 the previous week and 407 in the seven days prior.
The country's worst week of death came in late March and early April, when 6,077 people died in seven days.
Elderly people continue to be the most vulnerable in Spain: patients aged 80 and over account for more than a quarter of recent hospitalizations.
As of August 20, more than 6,000 people over 60 have been hospitalized with coronavirus, compared with just 1,500 people under 40.
The majority of those admitted to intensive care last month are in their fifties or sixties, with another 23 percent in their seventies.
The proportion of intensive care patients under 40 years of age has fallen from 17 percent between May and August to eight percent last month.
SPAIN AGE GROUPS: More than a quarter of recent hospital admissions in Spain are people over 80, with people over 60 making up more than half of the total
MADRID: Protesters wearing masks walk the streets during a demonstration on Sunday against the lockdown measures that will come into effect in some parts of the city this week
In France there are currently around 5,800 people in hospital with Covid-19 – an increase of more than a quarter compared to the 4,500 patients at the end of August.
Although the numbers have risen noticeably, they are still far from peaking in mid-April, when up to 32,000 people were hospitalized with the virus.
The same applies to intensive care units, which are currently treating 800 people – from fewer than 400 last month, but well below the high of more than 7,000 in the spring.
Some days more than 100 new patients are admitted to the intensive care unit, compared to just a trickle in the summer.
As a result, hotspots like Marseille and Bordeaux have filled up alarmingly in recent weeks.
Marseille hospitals are in crisis again as intensive care beds are full in and around the Bouches-du-Rhone region.
In Paris too, doctors are returning to the dilemma of postponing other operations and treatments to help coronavirus patients.
Francois Braun, head of a French emergency services union, warned, according to BFM TV, that hospitals could be "full" within three weeks.
Every bed at the Laveran Military Training Hospital in Marseille was occupied last week, and a medic said the same thing happened elsewhere.
Since virus patients have outgrown Covid-specific intensive care units, medical professionals have instead divided people into units designed for non-virus patients.
"The beginning of summer was relatively calm, but there has been a new increase in the last few weeks," said the chief physician at Laveran Hospital.
"In March, April and May we were able to absorb the epidemic wave by giving up other hospital care activities. Today, the point is to continue treating every other patient while facing the epidemic."
Among the new virus patients, he said, “Some are older, but not all. There are also adults aged 50 to 60 with risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, all factors that we saw during the first wave. & # 39;
FRANCE CASES: The country has seen a record number of infections in the past few days, but this is not reflected in the number of hospital stays
FRANCE DEATH: Although higher than in summer, the number of people dying from coronavirus in France is still far fewer than it was in April
FRANCE AGE GROUPS: The elderly are still the most susceptible to the disease. In France, almost a quarter of virus patients have been hospitalized for over 80 years – a phenomenon that has not changed much since the onset of the second wave
More than half [58 percent] of patients in French hospitals are 70 years of age or older, compared with just 7 percent under 40.
The largest single group are people between the ages of 80 and 89, 1,300 of whom are currently being hospitalized after being infected with Covid-19.
In addition, 86 percent of those who died in French hospitals in the past month are people age 70 and over, with only seven victims under 40.
As in Spain, the death toll in France has increased from very low summer levels – with an average of 46 deaths per day in hospitals in the past week.
But the numbers are still well below the level seen in early April, when hundreds of people died every day.
The French authorities say they are better prepared than in the spring. Mass tests are currently in progress.
According to French media, the intensive care unit capacity in France has increased from around 5,000 to 10,000 since the pandemic began.
Still, the country's Scientific Council warned last week that the government may have to take several unpopular decisions within a few days to counter the outbreak.
Council chairman Jean-Francois Delfraissy told reporters that current infection rates are "worrying".
The fact that new cases had not yet flooded the health system may have created "a false sense of security," Delfraissy said.
In some places there is a risk of "very rapid, exponential increases," he said, highlighting the region of the French Riviera and Provence.
The government may have to make "a certain number of difficult decisions," likely within 10 days.