Italian hospitals are so ‘overwhelmed’ by the coronavirus outbreak that stroke patients are going untreated, a doctor has revealed.
The entire country has been placed under an unprecedented quarantine as officials desperately try to contain the virus, which has killed 631 people so far – the highest number of fatalities outside of mainland China.
More than 10,000 have contracted the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus, with tens of thousands more being tested in hospitals.
A medic in northern Italy said hospitals were running at ‘200 per cent capacity’ with doctors forced into life-or-death decisions over who should receive intensive care.
Patients who don’t have coronavirus are being sidelined, while some patients over 65 are not even being assessed, the doctor said.
In a Twitter thread published by the medic’s friend, Jason van Schoor, they warned Britain could face similar chaos if they do not take it seriously.
Mr van Schoor, an anaesthetist and clinical fellow at University College London, said his Italian friend works as an A&E consultant and intensive care medic.
‘The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all,’ the unnamed medic told Mr van Schoor.
‘Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity.
We’ve stopped all routine, all operating rooms have been converted to intensive care units and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes.
‘There are hundreds of patients with severe respiratory failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.
‘Patients above 65, or younger with comorbidities, are not even assessed by intensive care units, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed.’ The medic added: ‘Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.
‘My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they can only offer some oxygen.’
Professor Francois Balloux, of the University College London Genetics Institute, said the outbreak’s trajectory in the UK is ‘roughly comparable’ to northern Italy, which is two to three weeks further along.
He said: ‘It is possible that a lockdown strategy similar to the one imposed in northern Italy may be adopted by the UK. The Covid-19 epidemic cannot be contained anymore.’
Other experts say it’s unclear how Italy’s country-wide measures will be maintained.