The intensive care unit transformed into a TGV is an element of the national mobilization of trains, helicopters, planes and even a warship in France, deployed to relieve crowded hospitals and to move hundreds of patients and of medical personnel in and out of coronavirus hotspots.
“We are at war,” President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly told his compatriots.
But as the 42-year-old leader masquerades as a warrior and harnesses the power of the military, critics accuse him of having waited far too long to act against this enemy. France, one of the richest countries in the world with one of the best health systems, they say, should never have been in such a deep crisis.
Macron had just emerged from weeks of damaging retirement strikes and a year of violent “yellow vest” protests against economic injustice when the pandemic hit. Now he’s struggling to run the home in one of the most affected countries in the world.
The Rungis food market south of Paris, the largest in Europe, turns into a morgue when the number of deaths in France exceeds 7,500. Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care, pushing French hospitals to their limits and beyond. Doctors ration painkillers and reuse masks.
The centralized state and the powerful presidency of France facilitate the coordination of exceptional patient displacement efforts, which have crisscrossed the country and even extended to overseas territories.