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Germany to cover costs of foreign virus patients

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This picture handed out by the Land NRW federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia shows the inside of a MedEvac special military airplane equipped with an intensive care unit, on March 28, 2020 at the Cologne-Bonn airport in Cologne, western Germany, prior to the take-off to Bergamo, Italy, from where six patients infected with the new coronavirus were to be transported to the western federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia for further treatment. (AFP/Mark HERMENAU / various sources)

Germany will cover the cost for treating novel coronavirus patients taken in from European Union neighbour countries as a gesture of goodwill, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday.

Germany has been spared the worst of the coronavirus crisis seen in some of its hard-hit European neighbours, and has taken in patients — mainly from France — to relieve pressure on their overburdened healthcare systems.

A total of 229 foreign patients have been treated in Germany, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said Monday — 130 from France, 44 from Italy and 55 from the Netherlands.

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Their treatment has so far cost about 20 million euros ($21.7 million), according to Spahn.

“Germany will cover the treatment costs of these patients, that is what we understand by European solidarity,” Spahn said ahead of a meeting of ministers tackling the virus crisis on Monday.

“The willingness and capacity is there to admit more if necessary,” he added.

The number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Germany has remained well below some of its neighbours.

As of Monday, Europe’s biggest economy had over 140,000 confirmed cases and 4,404 deaths, while Spain and Italy have reported more than 20,000 deaths each. France has close to 20,000 fatalities while Britain has more than 16,000.

Germany had 28,000 intensive care beds before the start of the crisis and has since increased that number to 30,000.

Over 12,600 beds remained free Sunday according to the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI).

Spahn’s announcement came as many parts of Germany reopened some shops on Monday after weeks of lockdown.

The health minister said Friday the pandemic was “under control”.

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