(Reuters) – Latvia has received shipments of emergency medical equipment from the Netherlands, Finland, Hungary and Sweden as it fights the worst surge in new COVID-19 cases in the European Union amid a low take-up of vaccinations.
The Baltic country of 1.9 million people filed a request last week to the European Union for more than 130 ventilators and hundreds of vital signs monitors, BNS news agency said.
Latvian hospitals were treating 1,526 coronavirus patients on Sunday, their highest number ever, the public broadcaster said. One large Riga hospital, the PSKUS, converted its hallway into a makeshift ward on Monday to treat patients, news portal Delfi reported.
Another Riga hospital set up a COVID-19 observation ward with 21 beds in a garage where ambulances are normally parked.
“In peacetime no country has the capacity to deal with such a crisis,” Latvian Health Minister Daniels Pavluts wrote on Twitter, thanking the countries for their donations.
Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency said it had sent 80 ventilators to Latvia. Latvia has also received six ventilators from Finland and other equipment from Hungary.
Latvia is also considering a request to the EU for medical personnel teams due to hospital staff shortages, the national broadcaster said.
Many countries in central and eastern Europe, including Russia, Romania, Ukraine and Poland, have seen a sharp spike in coronavirus cases this autumn, amid low levels of vaccination.
Latvia, the first European country to declare another national lockdown this autumn, reported 1,641 new cases per 100,000 people in the week ending Oct. 24, the worst rate in the 27-member EU, European Commission data show.
Latvia has fully vaccinated 59% of the adult population, against an EU average of about 75%.
Prosecutors are investigating 20 doctors suspected of selling fake vaccination certificates for up to 500 euros each, the public broadcaster said.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius. Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander in Stockholm; Editing by Gareth Jones)