UK: Bodies on hospital wards overwhelmed by coronavirus so why won't people listen?
An image of a man lying in the streets of Italy, and people being treated in hospital corridors in Madrid should serve as a reminder to people in the UK of what is about to come as thousands refused to stay at home this morning.
Despite the warnings, the Central Line was packed with commuters unable to stay two metres away, against government advice, as the UK’s coronavirus outbreak is set to get even worse.
Transport for London (TfL) urged people not to travel unless they have a critical job, but trains and tubes remained packed this morning.
The crowded tube trains are even more disturbing when compared to images emerging from Italy, which the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said we are only a matter of weeks behind.
A man wearing a protective mask was found lying unconscious on the ground near a bus stop in Rome on Sunday. He was carried away by paramedics as the country, ravaged by the world’s most deadly outbreak of Covid-19, recorded 651 deaths in one day, taking the death toll to 5,476.
It’s not known if the man has coronavirus, but it demonstrates just how stretched the Italian health services are at the moment.
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Finn Brennan, district organiser for train drivers’ union Aslef, said Tube staff were ‘furious’ that services were still extremely busy.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘Still heavy loading on some Tube lines this morning making social distancing impossible. This is endangering the health of the vital workers who have to use the system.
‘The Government must act now to ensure only ESSENTIAL journeys are made.
‘I’m being sent pictures of crush loaded platforms at some Jubilee line platforms this morning. Drivers and other frontline staff are furious.’
TfL suspended the Circle line and Waterloo & City line, and reduced frequencies on other parts of the Tube network. Bus services have also been cut.
Despite repeat warnings, crowds flocked to public places in their thousands over the weekend, with worrying pictures showing people queueing up for food stalls in busy park markets, and seaside towns filled with visitors.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the Government ‘may have to take further action’ if people continue to flout social distancing rules of staying two metres away from each other.
He told Sky News: ‘This is not the sort of thing that anybody would want to do but, of course, it is the sort of thing we might have to do in order to protect life.
‘If you do go out, you must not get closer than two metres from someone who isn’t in your household.
‘It is a really simple rule and incredibly important, because to protect life and the NHS we need to stop the spread of this virus and the virus spreads by people coming into close contact with each other.’
Mr Hancock said it was ‘very selfish’ of people to continue to socialise as the NHS battles to tackle the coronavirus epidemic.
He told the BBC: ‘Until we get a grip on the spread of this virus with the kinds of measures we have taken, then we can’t start to get our way out of it as a country.’
The PM warned yesterday that the NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’ in the same way as the Italian healthcare system has been, if the spread of coronavirus in the UK is not curbed.
But during his daily press conference on Sunday, he indicated he was reluctant to ban people from going outside for a walk or to exercise because of the physical and mental health benefits, as long as they acted responsibly.
The Government later issued updated guidance making clear that essential travel did not include visits to ‘second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays’.
However among some MPs there was a clear mood for firmer action amid fears that further delay would cost lives.
Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan said Mr Johnson’s ‘relaxed’ approach to coronavirus could cost lives.
The Tooting MP told the BBC: ‘If we look at the fact that we are two weeks behind Italy, we are headed for a disaster if people do not heed the social distancing measures.
‘The Prime Minister simply said yesterday he wants people to enjoy themselves outside while also saying that people should stay two metres apart outdoors.
‘This relaxed style, mixed messaging will cost lives and I believe people are struggling to follow guidelines because they are just not clear.’
The MP and emergency department doctor confirmed she would support a ‘full lockdown’ if that was proven to be the way to save lives.