The Netherlands on Tuesday started transporting COVID-19 patients across the border to Germany to ease pressure on Dutch hospitals struggling to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases.
A patient was transferred by ambulance from Rotterdam to a hospital in Bochum, some 240 km east, on Tuesday morning, and another would follow later in the day, health authorities said.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals has swelled to its highest level since May in recent weeks and is expected to increase further as infections jump to record levels.
German hospitals in total have offered 20 beds for patients from the Netherlands, after treating dozens during previous waves of the pandemic.
Plans by the Dutch government to impose further curbs to contain the virus prompted three nights of rioting starting on Friday and more than 170 arrests in cities across the country.
Plans include limiting access to many public places to people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 but it remains unclear whether the government will find a majority for them to become law.
As of Monday, 470 of a total 1,050 intensive care beds in the Netherlands were being used for COVID-19 patients and hospitals are already scaling back regular care, including cancer treatments and heart operations, to secure enough room for coronavirus cases.