Italy, which on Thursday surpassed China as the worst-hit country in the world by coronavirus, was among the least prepared EU states to deal with the pandemic, data from the OECD shows.
The country had just 2.6 intensive care (ICU) beds for every 1,000 residents available before the virus spread.
Coronavirus has stretched healthcare systems across Europe, prompting some countries to cancel non-urgent surgical operations and cut off entire services to open up ICU beds for patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
Euronews takes a look at the situation across Europe.
The death toll from the virus in Italy reached 3,405 on Thursday, the government announced, surpassing China by 150.
The relentless spread of the disease in the country has raised the alarm over the overstretched healthcare system.
According to OECD data, Italy had just 2.6 ICU beds for every 1,000 inhabitants in 2017 and ranked 19th out of 23 European countries.
The Health Ministry confirmed to Euronews that the country counted 5,090 beds before the crisis and said that it planned to increase that figure by at least 50%.
The AGO news agency estimated that when adding beds set up by regions, the additional beds could tally 3,700, close the estimated 4,000 believed to be necessary to face the crisis.
Italian doctors have told Euronews that coronavirus-stricken patients spend an average of 15 days in intensive care — much longer than the five or six days needed for other patients — and that they had to evaluate which patients had the best chance of survival given the low number of ICU beds.
They also said they had had to work without gloves or masks because they had run out.
According to the OECD, the EU’s second hardest-hit country had just 2.4 ICU beds for every 1,000 inhabitants in 2017 — one rank lower than Italy.
This amounted to 4,404 beds including 3,508 in public hospitals and 896 in private clinics.
As of Thursday 10:00 CET, Spain had reported 13,716 cases and 598 deaths.
With 244 deaths and 9,134 reported cases, France was on Thursday morning the EU’s third most impacted member state.
In 2018, the country had only 3.1 ICU beds for every 1,000 inhabitants or about 5,000 such beds in public health facilities.
The head of the country’s Federation for Private Hospitalisation announced on Wednesday that private clinics would open up at least 4,000 ICU beds in response to the crisis.
A military hospital is also being built near Mulhouse, in the east of the country, an area particularly badly hit by the virus.
With 28,000 ICU beds, Germany has the bloc’s highest tally relative to population size, but this still equates to 6 ICU beds per 1,000 inhabitants.
The Robert Koch Insitute, a government agency for disease control and prevention, called Thursday for the country to at least double capacity by cancelling non-urgent surgical operations if necessary.
Health Minister Jens Spahn had warned earlier this month that many of the ICU beds were being used because of a wave of influenza in the country.
Germany has reported 8,198 cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths.
The country of 8.6 million inhabitants counts “1,000 to 1,200 intensive care beds, 800 of which are operational today”, a spokesperson for the Federal Office for Public Health told Euronews in a statement.
“This data will be updated in the coming days, also depending on a potential capacity increase,” the statement added.
Switzerland has so far reported 3,888 cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths.