March 21, 2020 / 10:29 PM / 19 days ago

Britain's NHS could be overwhelmed like Italy, PM Johnson warns on coronavirus

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) could be “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus like the Italian health system in just two weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned.

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain March 20, 2020. Julian Simmonds/Pool via REUTERS

The death toll in Italy reached almost 5,000 on Saturday, while in the UK it hit 233.

In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson again urged Britons to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus.

“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,” he said.

“The Italians have a superb health-care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” Johnson noted.

He advised people to keep away from elderly parents on Mothering Sunday (March 22).

“The single best present that we can give ... is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease,” he said.

Earlier, Britain urged 1.5 million people identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus to not leave their homes to protect themselves.

On Friday, Johnson effectively closed down the United Kingdom, ordering pubs, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors to fight the virus.

Stores are also starting to shut.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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