How spread of coronavirus in UK mirrors Italy, where nearly 3,000 have died

Nearly 3,000 people have died from coronavirus in Italy, where shocking photos have emerged of army vehicles carrying coffins from the worst-hit areas.

By Robert Cumber
Friday, 20th March 2020, 4:05 pm
Updated Friday, 20th March 2020, 6:08 pm

There had been 35,713 confirmed cases in Italy as of yesterday, according to figures from the World Health Organisation, and the country has been placed on total lockdown.

Some observers have warned the UK is just a couple of weeks behind Italy – where by March 5 there had been around 3,100 cases, similar to the 3,269 in the UK as of Thursday, March 19 – and suggested we could soon see cases and deaths reaching similarly catastrophic levels if more urgent action is not taken.

Army trucks parked outside a cemetery in Bergamo, Italy, which is one of the areas worst hit by coronavirus (Photo by STRINGER/ANSA/AFP via Getty Images)

The increase in cases has followed a similar trajectory in both countries, which have populations of 66.4 million for the UK and 60.4m for Italy, though experts in the UK have pointed out the daily count is only a guide since people are not being routinely tested outside of hospitals.

There are, of course, some key differences – a major one being that Italy has the world’s second oldest population, according to the Population Reference Bureau, with people aged 65 and over making up 22.8 per cent of the total population, compared with 18.3 per cent in the UK.

People aged over 70, as well as those with underlying conditions, are known to be more at risk from COVID-19.

There are also suggestions that Italy’s crisis may have been deepened by the propensity for younger people there to mix more with older generations than is the case in other countries.

But those differences have not stopped people looking to Italy as an example of just how bad things could get over here, especially if people do not start taking the threat more seriously and follow government advice to self-isolate if they have any symptoms and to avoid public gatherings.

The UK government is expected to ramp up measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus in the coming days to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.

But it is not yet known whether that will mean similarly drastic steps to those taken in Italy, where people have been ordered to stay at home since March 9.


What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS