Belgium begins COVID patient airlifts to Germany

Belgium’s COVID-19 infection rate is soaring and now the country is taking drastic measures to ensure those suffering have access to treatment, by airlifting patients to hospitals in neighbouring Germany.

A helicopter operator has begun transporting each sufferer inside a giant transparent plastic bag connected to medical devices.

Most of the transferred patients are severely ill and on ventilators.

Olivier Pirotte is part of the helicopter crew.

“It’s interesting because it saves time in terms of transfer, especially when it comes to long-distance transfers. The (transfer) time will remain the same for short-distance transfers, it will however be important if the patient has to be taken to a hospital at the other end of Belgium, or even in a foreign country."

Journeys that would take three hours by road can be done up to three times faster by air, and expose the patient to fewer shocks, such as from road bumps.

Belgium has been hit hard by a second wave of the virus and intensive care beds in local hospitals are almost full, including in the eastern city of Liege.

Ambulances have been taking patients across the border by road since last week, with the helicopter service starting on Tuesday (November 3).