German military to send medical staff and equipment to Portugal

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A COVID-19 patient transferred from Lisbon arrives at Nelio Mendonca Hospital in Funchal, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Funchal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's military will send medical staff and equipment to Portugal, where space in hospital intensive care units is running out after a surge in coronavirus infections, the defence ministry in Berlin said on Sunday.

Portugal, which said on Saturday that only seven of 850 ICU beds set up for COVID-19 cases on its mainland were vacant, had asked the German government for help.

"We will support Portugal with medical staff and equipment," a defence ministry spokesman told Reuters, adding that details were expected to be announced early this week.

Portugal, which has reported 12,179 COVID-19 deaths and 711,018 cases, has the world's highest seven-day rolling average of cases and deaths per capita, according to data tracker

German magazine Der Spiegel said the military planned to send 27 doctors and paramedics to Portugal who were initially supposed to remain there for three weeks, as well as stationary and mobile ventilators and field beds for patients.

Responding to that report, the defence ministry spokesman said he could not immediately provide any details.

Austria will take in intensive-care patients from Portugal, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter. A spokesman for Kurz added that the number was not yet clear and the two countries were liaising. Austria has previously taken in small numbers of intensive-care patients from France, Italy and Montenegro.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky)