Hospital receiving coronavirus patients ‘every 5 minutes’ but peak still to come

An Italian doctor says a hospital in Milan is receiving coronavirus patients "every five minutes" with the country still "two weeks away" from reaching its peak.

Dr. Massimo Galli, head of the infectious disease unit at the overwhelmed Sacco Hospital in Milan, told ABC news the facility is reaching a point of "complete saturation."

He said: "We are getting close to not being able to accept new patients. There is a complete saturation of beds."

He added virus free patients were being discharged every two to three hours and that hospital administrators were seeking alternative buildings to treat patients.

He said other countries should remain "extremely alert" in tracking all infected people.

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It's clear we have a pandemic," he added.

"The numbers in Spain, France, Germany makes it look like they are just a few weeks from an epidemic. I hope I am wrong for everybody."

He believes the country could see infections spread for up to four more weeks.

There are more than 21,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Italy, a figure rising every day.

More than 1,400 people have died from the disease and the country remains the worst affected in Europe.

Italy's ageing population has left it in a vulnerable position with a fatality rate of 6.8 per cent – double the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate of 3.4 per cent.

On Friday, WHO said Europe was now the "epicentre" of pandemic.

On Monday, Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte took the dramatic step of putting the country on lockdown. All businesses, with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores, shut down and schools closed.

Spain has declared a state of emergency , with Madrid on lockdown and resorts in Ibiza and Majorca closing bars.

It is the second worst affected country in Europe after Italy.

France has also gone into lockdown in an attempt to top the spread of coronavirus.

Restaurants, some shops, cinemas and cafés will shut for the foreseeable future.

In the UK plans are underway to ban mass gatherings from next week after the death toll rose to 21.

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