A team of firefighters and volunteers turned a 1400 sq m convention centre hall in Vienna into a new 880-bed coronavirus hospital over the course of a weekend.
Soldiers in Germany, France and Spain have been deployed to help build similar temporary facilities for thousands of patients. Across Europe, tens of thousands of nurses and doctors are being graduated early or called back from retirement.
As coronavirus cases surge in the biggest infectious disease crisis to hit European hospitals in a century, officials and healthcare workers are scrambling to keep national health systems above water.
The grim harbinger of how bad things could get lies right in Europe's midst as Italy's death toll leaps by hundreds each day. Doctors there are struggling to keep more than 2800 people in intensive care alive, an effort that requires staffs, beds and a constant supply of protective equipment.
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But countries are competing against one another for medical supplies on an international market that has been sucked dry.
To address shortages, Spanish clothing manufacturers are turning their lines toward making medical masks and Parisian perfumers are producing hand sanitiser in actions that hark back to wartime efforts.
As the number of critically ill rises, analysts expect even the continent's best-prepared health systems to be stretched to their limits.
"There's been nothing on this scale in the postwar period," said Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "The problem is that health systems, we talk about them as adaptive, but they have the capacity to fall over. They can expand so much, but at some point the whole thing collapses."
Some countries began preparations earlier than others, but by now the scale of the crisis has set in across the continent.
In Britain, which was particularly slow to act, government pronouncements are now accompanied by a palpable sense of panic and ever more desperate appeals. The mood in France has shifted from an initial nonchalance to heightened anxiety as President Emmanuel Macron has imposed an increasingly strict lockdown period of 15 days, which officials have suggested may be extended.
Spain, which has suffered Europe's second biggest outbreak, opened a coronavirus hospital in a 359-room hotel last week. Authorities say they expect to convert as many as 4000 hotel beds to hospital beds and add 5500 more in a convention centre.
In the race to respond to the virus, countries in Europe do not begin on an even footing. Germany, home to 28,0000 critical care beds, is particularly well placed to weather the storm. It has six per 1000 people, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data, nearly three times as many as Britain, with about 2.1. France has 3.1, according to the OECD; Spain has 2.4.
Germany has about 25,000 ventilators, and has ordered 10,000 more from a German medical manufacturer. Britain's National Health Service has 8000; the Government last week asked automakers such as Jaguar to try to quickly manufacturer them. The NHS wants 20,000 to 30,000 more.
But the exponential growth in cases in many countries is concerning to even the best prepared. German Health Minister Jens Spahn is offering financial bonuses for hospitals to add intensive care beds. In a letter to hospitals this month, he asked managers to free up beds by postponing nonessential surgery "now" - using boldface type for emphasis.
Reinhard Busse, head of the department of health care management at the Berlin University of Technology, predicted pressure on the German health system would grow.
"Clearly when the number of ICU patients also goes up exponentially, even though we have more beds than anywhere else, obviously there will be a shortage," he said.
Some analysts say one advantage Europe has is centralised social systems that may be easier to reorganise and adapt to changing needs. In contrast, some US hospitals have said they might have to close if they don't receive financial relief.
Spain and Britain have announced they will take over private hospitals. Britain's deal to take over private healthcare adds 8000 more hospital beds, 1200 ventilators and more than 250 operating theater and ICU beds. It also adds almost 20,000 extra healthcare professionals, including 10,000 nurses and 700 doctors, who will pivot to providing care for coronavirus patients.
In Spain, the deal adds 1172 intensive care beds, according to the health ministry. Public hospitals have 4627.
France, which has about 5000 intensive-care beds with ventilators for its 66 million people, is trying to secure more through a jointly negotiated European Union initiative.
Just getting basic medical supplies such as masks and gloves remains a challenge. Some 4000 healthcare workers in Britain sent an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson decrying an "unacceptable shortage" of medical equipment. An Italian doctor who died after developing covid-19, the virus caused by the novel coronavirus, said in a television interview that doctors in his hospital had to work without gloves.
The French Interior Ministry is offering 15 million euros for 1.5 million liters of hand sanitising gel, one tender shows. Italy's region of Veneto, one of the first struck by coronavirus, wants 250,000 litres of the coveted liquid, 50,000 testing swabs and half a million face masks. Luxembourg is looking for 61,000 respiratory masks with "extreme urgency."
Wartime-like efforts to make up shortages have brought surges in national solidarity. But the panic over coronavirus also, initially at least, brought an air of everyone for themselves to the continent.
Italy has complained that its European brethren have been slow to step in to assist, forcing it to turn to China instead.
"Italy needs tens of millions of face masks," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.
"One hundred million face masks will be arriving from China," he said. "Should other countries want to help us out in this war, they're welcome to. Our country is on the front lines."
Central European and Balkan nations have also turned to Beijing for help, and Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic tweeted his appreciation.
"Thank you very much to my brother, President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people. Long live our steel friendship!" he wrote.
Elias Mossailos, head of the department of health policy at the London School of Economics, predicted that the number of countries "knocking on China's door" will give Beijing's soft power a boost.
"There is no European solidarity," he said.
In an effort to build some, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week announced a common European medical reserve that will include a stockpile of ventilators protective equipment and other items. She had criticised earlier bans on medical exports from France and Germany.
In a glimmer of European collaboration, hospitals in France's Alsace region have begun transferring some critically ill patients across the border to Germany, where the state of Baden-Württemberg had offered assistance.
Whatever the preparations in hospitals, analysts say, a key in how well health services cope will be how effectively earlier measures on distancing and containment have been in "flattening the curve," or reducing the proliferation of the virus. There are some early indications that levels of intensive care admissions in Germany will be lower than Italy, the Berlin University of Technology's Busse said, but data is incomplete and affected by varying levels of testing.
Germany, where the death rate is notably lower than elsewhere, could be seeing the benefit of tracking and containing its early clusters, epidemiologists say. But it was slower than some countries to ban mass events and has still refrained from a total lockdown. Today, it limited nonfamily social gatherings to two people.
Health authorities in Austria, which enacted tighter restrictions earlier, said they were beginning to see the impact as the growth rate of new infections in the country slows. Britain, meanwhile, has held back from implementing the stricter measures seen elsewhere.
"The question is now is it too late for the UK?" said Mossailos. "Now they are panicking, big time."
A group of British scientists reported that it would take 2.5 per cent of the British population to be infected to cause a bed shortage in most counties. If infections reach 10 per cent, the group said, the country would see "hospital deserts."
One Spanish doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to talk to the media, complained that his country had wasted valuable time. He said his hospital now looked like a "wartime clinic."
"It seems we didn't learn very much from what happened in China or Italy," he said.