Mar 22, 2020 - World

Boris Johnson: Coronavirus outbreak in U.K. is only weeks behind Italy

Boris Johnson

Photo: Julian Simmonds/WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that a surge of coronavirus cases over the next two weeks could cripple the country's National Health Service (NHS), Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Johnson said the U.K., in terms of cases, is only "a matter of weeks — two or three — behind Italy," which overtook China last week as the country with the most reported deaths from the virus.

  • The surge of cases in northern Italy has severely strained the country's health care system, NBC reports.

By the numbers: As of Sunday morning, the U.K. had reported 5,067 cases and 233 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

  • Italy has reported more than 53,500 cases and 4,825 deaths.

What he's saying: “Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread — then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” Johnson said, according to Reuters. “The numbers are very stark, and they are accelerating."

  • “The Italians have a superb health-care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” Johnson added.
  • He advised people to stay away from their parents on Sunday, which is Mothering Sunday in Britain.
  • “The single best present that we can give ... is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease."

The big picture: The NHS struck a deal with the independent hospital sector on Saturday, giving the institution more ventilators, beds and health care staff.

  • The U.K. government also urged 1.5 million people identified by the NHS as high-risk patients not to leave their homes.
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