France’s health minister on Sunday appealed for volunteer doctors and nurses to travel to the overseas territories of Guadalupe and Martinique as a wave of COVID-19 infections overwhelms hospitals on the two Caribbean islands.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said the first medical staff would fly out on Tuesday, as health authorities race to administer COVID-19 shots but come up against a deep-rooted culture of vaccine-hesitancy.
Only 21% of the populations of Guadalupe and Martinique have received a first dose of a vaccine, according to the independent COVIDTracker website citing Aug. 5 data, compared with two thirds of all French people having received one dose and 55% being fully vaccinated.
Hospitals on the islands are buckling under pressure with intensive care bed occupancy on Martinique alone at 200% of normal capacity.
In an appeal launched on social media, Veran said Martinique and Guadalupe were facing “an intense wave of infections” that was hitting a population where vaccination levels were too low.
On Monday, mainland France will extend its health pass scheme to include bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as long distance trains, to help contain a fourth wave of infections.