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Barcelona hospitals brace as second wave of COVID-19 admissions builds

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BARCELONA: For Julio Pascual, a sharp rise in coronavirus admissions at the Barcelona hospital where he serves as medical director carries an unwelcome sense of deja vu.

As Spain's total registered cases near 1 million, daily admissions at the Catalan capital's Hospital del Mar have more than doubled to around 16 over the past few days.

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Situated in a pandemic hotspot, the hospital is better prepared to treat COVID-19 patients than it was in March, but Pascual is concerned over a chronic shortage of nurses, and risks that overworked staff could burn out.

"It is not the speed of the first wave but there's an evident uptick in cases," he told Reuters.

"If the rhythm (of COVID-19 hospitalisations) of the past week continues, rescheduling and suspending some non-priority activities will become unavoidable."

READ: Europe tightens COVID-19 curbs as WHO urges countries to enforce quarantine measures

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With the most confirmed cases in Western Europe, Spain is struggling to manage its second wave.

Restrictions have been imposed across the country, notably in the two hardest hit regions, with Madrid placed on partial lockdown and Catalonia shutting bars and restaurants.

"We need to convince people not to socially interact. What's at stake are the non-COVID patients … The resources that were working well until a week ago are simply not enough anymore," said Xavier Borras, medical director at the Hospital de Sant Pau, also in Barcelona.

READ: COVID-19 at 'turning point' in Europe, hitting at-risk groups

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In the 24 hours to Tuesday afternoon, coronavirus admissions there rose to 11, the highest since late April though still far off the peaks of 50 to 60 daily in late March, he said.

Borras said the hospital was expanding its number of beds for coronavirus patients, which could eventually lead to the cancellation of scheduled non-urgent operations.

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