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

"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.