March 26, 2020 / 7:12 PM / 13 days ago

Germany takes in 47 coronavirus patients from Italy

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 14, 2020. REUTERS/ Andreas Gebert

BERLIN (Reuters) - German hospitals with spare capacity will take in at least 47 coronavirus patients from Italy in a sign of European solidarity, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

“Because we stand by our Italian friends. We can only manage this together,” Maas said in a short statement.

In Italy, an overwhelmed health care system has witnessed the outbreak kill more people than in any other country.

Ahead of an expected larger wave of domestic infections that German authorities are preparing for, a first group of six Italian patients arrived at Leipzig airport in the eastern state of Saxony on Tuesday.

The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia also announced plans to take 10 Italian patients in coming days.

As of Wednesday, there were 36,508 cases of coronavirus in Germany, with 198 deaths, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said. That compares with 74,386 confirmed cases in Italy, where 7,503 have died.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier on Thursday that the country was still in “the calm before the storm”, adding authorities were using the time they had won with extensive testing to prepare for a wave of cases expected in the coming weeks.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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