The dire situation has been highlighted by junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who is herself recovering from COVID-19, the illness coronavirus causes, and whose own 84-year-old mother likewise contracted the disease. Italy is the worst-hit country in Europe in terms of COVID-19, with 35,713 cases – and the death toll there – 3,405 – now exceeds that of China, where the disease emerged towards the end of last year. One Milanese doctor, who identified herself as Martina, told ITV: “There are a lot of young people in our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) – our youngest is a 38-year-old who had had no comorbidities (underlying health problems).
“A lot of patients need help with breathing but there are not enough ventilators.
“They’ve told us that starting from now we’ll have to choose who to intubate – priority will go to the young or those without comorbidities.
“At Niguarda, the other big hospital in Milan, they are not intubating anyone over 60, which is really, really young.”
She added: “This virus is so infectious that the only way to avoid a ‘massacre’ is to have the least number possible getting infected over the longest possible timescale.
“Right now, if we get 10,000 people in Italy in need of ventilators – when we only have 3,000 in the country – 7,000 people will die.
“Rome right now is like where Milan was 10 days ago.
“A child with no symptoms will go to visit its grandparents, and basically kill them. So it’s essential to avoid contact between them”.
Another doctor, who works at Nigurdia hospital, said: “We have closed down entire wards, and reduced the number of beds in traditional wards.
“The number of ICU beds has been tripled. There was even pressure to take over our Cardiac ICU.”
Chillingly, he added: “All the resuscitation bays are full. They’re having to triage, deciding who to intubate and who to let die.”
Ms Dorries, 62, Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire MP, who yesterday tweeted her anger at “selfish” Londoners heading to cafes to work in the face of office closures, later added: “Sobering Italy has stopped intubating patients over 60.
“All ICU patients on ventilators are below 60 and not one has been weaned back off to breathe independently.
“We must follow the advice on social distancing if we are to crack this.”
The Government published guidance on social distancing aimed at “protecting older people and vulnerable adults”.
This states: “We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant.”