The German military on Wednesday sent more than 20 doctors and nurses together with ventilators and hospital beds to coronavirus-stricken Portugal, where a severe rise in cases has prompted several European nations to offer help.
"The mission is necessary because there is currently an extremely difficult situation in Portugal and because we have to show here within the framework of European solidarity that countries can only master these great challenges together," military general doctor Ulrich Baumgaertner said.
A military transport plane carrying 26 doctors, nurses and hygiene experts as well as 40 mobile and 10 stationary ventilators left for Lisbon.
The German military team will also bring 150 hospital beds to Portugal and aims to stay initially for three weeks.
Portugal's ambassador Francisco Pimentel de Mello Ribeiro de Menezes thanked the German government and military for the medical support: "Their work is going to be much welcomed in Portugal and we will be forever grateful for this assistance."
Austria has offered to take in 10 to 15 Covid-19 intensive care patients who would be distributed in various hospitals across the country, its embassy in Portugal said.
"Now we have a bit more capacity, this is an opportunity to show European solidarity," Austrian ambassador Robert Zischg said to Reuters in the Lisbon embassy.
The two countries' health and defence ministries were in regular contact and it was up to Portugal to decide whether it would accept the offer, he said.
Hospitals across Portugal, a nation of about 10 million people, appear on the verge of collapse, with ambulances sometimes queuing for hours because of a lack of beds while some health units are struggling to find enough refrigerated space to preserve the bodies of the deceased.
Although daily infections and deaths from Covid-19 in the country on Tuesday retreated further from last week's records and fewer patients were in intensive care, doctors and nurses are still over-stretched.
Portugal, which has so far reported a total of 13,017 Covid-19 deaths and 731,861 cases, reported close to half of all its Covid-19 deaths last month as cases accelerated.