Hospitals in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, will admit coronavirus-infected patients from a neighbouring region of eastern France struggling to cope with a rising number of cases.

The state’s health ministry confirmed a report by daily newspaper Schwaebische Zeitung on Saturday that governor Winfried Kretschmann had offered assistance to France as the latter faced a growing shortage of ICU beds.

Markus Jox, a spokesperson for the health ministry, said authorities had asked all hospitals in Baden-Württemberg with free capacity to admit French patients who required ventilators.

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He said despite the state’s own limited capacity, “we will naturally try to help our French neighbours”.

France has reported 12,612 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 450 deaths so far, and Emmanuel Macron warned French citizens on Friday they were only “at the start of this crisis”.

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Mr Macron said at a crisis meeting at the interior ministry on Friday: “We have taken exceptional measures to absorb this first wave, but we’ve started a race against the virus.

“We must react a great deal and reorganise ourselves at every moment. We need to anticipate,” he added.

Alsace, which borders Germany, has been hit the hardest by the outbreak, as hospitals and intensive care units there are “overstretched” and “overcrowded”, said an official for Grand Est and Bas-Rhin in northeastern France.

France has been under a nationwide lockdown since Monday. In the capital, Paris, as well as the southern city of Nice, authorities closed parks, promenades and walkways to stop people from gathering in large numbers and ignoring lockdown measures, France24 reported.

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Over in Germany, more than 20,000 cases of the virus have been reported but the death toll has remained relatively low, with just 70 deaths.

The German government warned on Friday that it may have to impose a country-wide curfew on its 83 million citizens if they do not abide by social distancing over the weekend.

Stefan Seibert, a spokesperson for German chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “They will carry out a ruthless analysis of the situation. How the public behaves on Saturday will be decisive.”

Germany has already shut schools, restaurants and shops to tackle the crisis. On Friday, Bavaria became the first German state to impose a lockdown to tackle the outbreak.

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