Portugal urged to seek help abroad amid COVID-19

Portugal was urged to transfer COVID-19 patients abroad on Tuesday, as deaths hit a record high and the oxygen supply system in one of the largest hospitals failed from overuse.

Ambulances were seen rushing through the gates of Amadora hospital on the outskirts of Lisbon to transfer 48 patients to other health units in the capital.

Twenty of them went to Lisbon's largest hospital, Santa Maria, which has already installed two fridges outside its morgue to cope with rising fatalities.

In the last 24 hours there have been nearly 300 deaths adding to Portugal's 11,000 death count from COVID-19, which is now the world's highest seven-day average of cases and deaths per million people, according to the tally on ourworldindata.org

As public hospitals are overwhelmed with the ballooning number of patients, the military has been called in to help in Lisbon and Porto.

The Armed Forces Hospital is also doubling its capacity and converting two cafeterias into wards.

A local official in Torres Vedras, near Lisbon urged the foreign ministry to seek international help.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said all options were being looked into:

"There is no reason at this moment to create an idea of social alarm when it comes to the need for international help. But we know that there is, as it happened in the past within the EU, with different countries and economies, this collaboration and the availability of friendly countries."

Portugal's location on the westernmost edge of Europe means there are constraints in transferring patients elsewhere, especially as other EU nations struggle.

Across Portugal's health service, 830 intensive care beds have been allocated to COVID-19 patients out of a total of 1,200.