Together with a large part of the world France has entered the blocking mode to curb the spread of the new type of corona virus. Citizens stay at home, planes on the tarmac, cars in garages. The national railway has reduced service to a minimum, but sent a TGV high-speed train from Strasbourg to Angers in the Loire Valley on Thursday morning. However, the manifesto was highly unusual: instead of the more than 500 passengers that would normally fit in the biplane, they carried 20 Covid-19 patients.
The aim of the "TGV medicalisé" was to relieve the pressure on hospitals in the French region of Grand Est along the German and Belgian borders, in which almost 6,000 Covid-1
These first 20 patients, all in stable condition, traveled in railway wagons into which the railway and the French emergency medical service SAMU had been converted, intensive care units, equipped with equipment and with helpers occupied. The rescue workers stacked oxygen bottles in the racks and put stretchers over the seats to secure them with orange cords that ran around the armrests and ischias. Ambulances with patients from local hospitals drove to the platform, where medical workers with face masks, protective coats and goggles brought them on board. Each retrofitted car carried four patients and six medical workers.
Trains work well and move hospitals, said Lamhaut. They are more spacious than ambulances and helicopters and can accelerate and decelerate smoothly, limiting jostling. Thanks to the high-quality rails, which enable train speeds north of 200 miles per hour, doctors and nurses on board can do the same work as in suitable hospitals, said SAMU boss François Braun to the television station France 2. And during this train – by train Operators – volunteers who signed up for the mission – were not running at full speed, NPR reports, making the approximately 500-mile trip to Angers in about five hours.
Trains have been used to transport the injured and the sick since the 1850s, usually for soldiers in wartime. However, the French emergency services had prepared for the civilian emergency. An exercise was carried out last May in which a passenger train was converted into a rolling emergency room. The teams evacuated "victims" from a false terrorist attack, said Paris-based SAMU boss Pierre Carli. "But there could be a technological disaster or an epidemic victim."
Provided that this first mission went without major problems, French officials expect to repeat the feat – and make this training exercise all the more valuable.  WIRED offers unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus update newsletter to get the latest updates and subscribe to support our journalism.
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