Act now, Italian doctor at epicenter of outbreak warns the world

An Italian doctor treating patients at the center of the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe has issued a stark warning to other countries yet hit by the full force of the pandemic: lock down.

“We know what happens," Dr. Emanuela Catenacci told told British broadcaster Sky News as she took a break from treating patients in an intensive care ward in the Cremona Hospital in Lombardy. "Don’t think it is happening here and it can’t happen everywhere else … because it will."

The death toll in Italy jumped by 793 to 4,825 on Saturday, by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago in this country. Last week, the number of those killed in Italy's outbreak surpassed those who died in China, where the disease first emerged late last year.

While Lombardy, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak,has been under lockdown for weeks, the central government has been criticized for not acting quickly or forcefully enough to stem the outbreak. On Saturday, Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte described as the worst crisis faced by the country since the end of World War II.

In the hospital in Cremona to the east of Milan, Dr. Leonor Tamayo told Sky News, which like NBC News is owned by Comcast, that they were overwhelmed by a "tsunami" of patients.

The hospital has run out of space to store bodies and has been forced to keep them in a nearby church.

Comparing the outbreak to a “war,” she said: “We are here 12 hours a day. Only we are going home for a few hours and come back here for the work because we are here for the patients.”

As they struggled to cope with a huge number of patients, doctors said they are trying to dispel the myth that only the elderly are dying from coronavirus related illnesses.

Related: Italy weeks into COVID-19 epidemic

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Medical workers in overalls stretch a patient under intensive care into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
MOLINETTE HOSPITAL, TURIN, ITALY - 2020/03/16: A banner reading 'Thanks for what you are doing' hangs outside emergency room of hospital Molinette to thank doctors, nurses and others medical workers. The Italian government imposed unprecedented restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, among other measures people movements are allowed only for work, for buying essential goods and for health reasons. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MOLINETTE HOSPITAL, TURIN, ITALY - 2020/03/16: A nurse measures temperature of a man for pre triage, to carry out coronavirus infection control tests. The Italian government imposed unprecedented restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, among other measures people movements are allowed only for work, for buying essential goods and for health reasons. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
CORIGLIANO-ROSSANO, CALABRIA, ITALY - 2020/03/16: People keeping a safe distance queuing outside a post office wearing a mask for fear of Coronavirus infection (COVID-19). (Photo by Alfonso Di Vincenzo/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A medical worker wearing a face mask and overalls drives an ambulance into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman walks her dogs across the deserted surroundings of the closed Colosseum monument on March 16, 2020 in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical workers in overalls stretch a patient under intensive care into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
A mural by artist Franco Rivolli Art, depicting a nurse wearing a face mask, with wings behind her back and cradling Italy, is pictured on a wall of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Lombardy, on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images)
NAPLES, CAMPANIA, ITALY - 2020/03/16: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created with a drone.) View of the empty Dante Alighieri square in Naples city, after the Italian government has imposed unprecedented national restrictions on controlling the coronavirus COVID 19. (Photo by Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A hearse transporting a coffin enters the Monumental cemetery of Bergamo, Lombardy, as relatives of a deceased person walk outside on March 16, 2020, while burials of people who died of the new coronavirus are being conducted at the rythm of one every half hour. (Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP) (Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical workers in overalls stretch a patient under intensive care into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
Residents on window and balconies sing 'Il cielo sempre piu blu' (The sky becomes more and more blue) during a flash mob to raise morale as the lock down continues due to the coronavirus outbreak to the Garbatella neighbourhood on March 16, 2020, in Rome, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lockdown by closing all businesses except essential services such as, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores and tobacconists and banks, in an effort to fight the world's second-most deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak outside of China. The movements in and out are allowed only for work and health reasons proven by a medical certificate. The number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease in Italy has jumped up to at least 27.980 while the death toll have reached 2158. (Photo by Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents on window and balconies sing 'Il cielo sempre piu blu' (The sky becomes more and more blue) during a flash mob to raise morale as the lock down continues due to the coronavirus outbreak to the Garbatella neighbourhood on March 16, 2020, in Rome, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lockdown by closing all businesses except essential services such as, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores and tobacconists and banks, in an effort to fight the world's second-most deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak outside of China. The movements in and out are allowed only for work and health reasons proven by a medical certificate. The number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease in Italy has jumped up to at least 27.980 while the death toll have reached 2158. (Photo by Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents on window and balconies sing 'Il cielo sempre piu blu' (The sky becomes more and more blue) during a flash mob to raise morale as the lock down continues due to the coronavirus outbreak to the Garbatella neighbourhood on March 16, 2020, in Rome, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lockdown by closing all businesses except essential services such as, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores and tobacconists and banks, in an effort to fight the world's second-most deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak outside of China. The movements in and out are allowed only for work and health reasons proven by a medical certificate. The number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease in Italy has jumped up to at least 27.980 while the death toll have reached 2158. (Photo by Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A medical worker in overalls exits an ambulance outside the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 16: Giulia Baini, 24, a volunteer from the Community of Sant'Egidio, speaks to Giovanna, a frail elderly woman of 82 years of age during a home-care service on March 16, 2020 in Rome, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lockdown by closing all businesses except essential services such as, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores, tobacconists and banks, in an effort to fight the world's second-most deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak outside of China. Journeys are allowed only for work reasons and health reasons proven by a medical certificate. Citizens are encourage to stay home and have an obligation to respect a safety distance of one metre from each other in supermarkets or in public spaces. (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)
SALERNO, ITALY - MARCH 16: A nurse inside a Civil Protection tent set up as a Pre-Triage in the Luigi Curto hospital on March 16, 2020 in Polla, Italy. Italian Government continues to enfoce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the coronavirus spread. The number of people infected with coronavirus in Italy is growing, new cases are reported in many southern regions. In the Campania Region, the local government has decided to quarantine five Municipalities so that preventing anyone from entering or leaving Ariano Irpino in the province of Avellino, Atena Lucana, Caggiano, Polla and Sala Consilina in the province of Salerno. (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)
SALERNO, ITALY - MARCH 16: A nurse inside a Civil Protection tent set up as a Pre-Triage in the Luigi Curto hospital on March 16, 2020 in Polla, Italy. Italian Government continues to enfoce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the coronavirus spread. The number of people infected with coronavirus in Italy is growing, new cases are reported in many southern regions. In the Campania Region, the local government has decided to quarantine five Municipalities so that preventing anyone from entering or leaving Ariano Irpino in the province of Avellino, Atena Lucana, Caggiano, Polla and Sala Consilina in the province of Salerno. (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)
A man runs across a deserted Lungotevere Marzio embankment on March 16, 2020 in Rome. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
SALERNO, ITALY - MARCH 16: The interior of a Civil Protection tent set up as a Pre-Triage of the Luigi Curto hospital on March 16, 2020 in Polla, Italy. Italian Government continues to enfoce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the coronavirus spread. The number of people infected with coronavirus in Italy is growing, new cases are reported in many southern regions. In the Campania Region, the local government has decided to quarantine five Municipalities so that preventing anyone from entering or leaving Ariano Irpino in the province of Avellino, Atena Lucana, Caggiano, Polla and Sala Consilina in the province of Salerno. (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)
People wearing a face mask walk across the Gianicolo promenade on March 16, 2020 in Rome. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
Empty check-in counters are seen at a terminal of the airport of Naples, Italy, on March 16, 2020 where air traffic slowed down due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Paolo Manzo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A patient (L) flashes the victory sign as she is being brought into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16, 2020 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman takes a picture of a notice informing customers of the temporary closure over coronavirus concerns of the Disney store on Oxford Street in London, England, on March 16, 2020. Around the country, as elsewhere in the world, covid-19 coronavirus fears continue to escalate as the numbers of cases and deaths continues to rise. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile remains under pressure over the government's so-called herd immunity strategy, which bucks the closures-and-lockdowns approach adopted by countries such as Italy and Spain. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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"Fifty percent of our patients in the intensive care unit, which are the most severe patients, are over 65 years old," Dr. Antonio Pensenti, the head of the intensive-care crisis unit in the northern region of Lombardy, on Saturday. "But that means that the other 50 percent of our patients are younger than 65.”

Pensenti said that his team were treating “quite a few” patients between the ages of 20 and 30, who were in a “severe” condition like the older patients, although he added that the younger patients were “usually healthier and survived more.”

Taking further restrictive measures in a bid to stem the outbreak, Lombardy’s Governor Attilio Fontana signed a new order Saturday imposing even more stringent restrictions on residents, banning outdoor exercise and implementing temperature checks at supermarkets and pharmacies.

In an address to the nation, he said his government would close every factory in the country, unless they were deemed essential until Apr. 3.

However, pharmacies, supermarkets, banks and public transport would continue to operate.

After the announcement, Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri wrote on his social media accounts that it was “a necessary decision" that could "save human lives.”

On Sunday, the Russian military will start sending medical help to Italy to help it to battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, Russia's Defence Ministry said in a statement, according to the Reuters.

Putin spoke to Conte on Saturday, the Kremlin said in a statement, adding that the Russian leader had offered his support and help in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to aid the worst-hit Italian regions.

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