A medical professional has summed up why social distancing is so important by explaining how one person with the coronavirus could infect almost 60,000 others.
Professor Hugh Montgomery, an intensive care specialist, warned that people who are disregarding advice to avoid gatherings and unnecessary travel and keep a safe distance from others risk the virus spreading to the point where the NHS is overwhelmed.
He was on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme about how easily the coronavirus spreads and why it could overstretch NHS resources.
“Normal flu, if I get that, I’m going to infect on average about 1.3, 1.4 people, if there was such a division,” he said.
“And if those 1.3, 1.4 people gave it to the next lot, that’s the second time it gets passed on.
“By the time that’s happened 10 times I’ve been responsible for about 14 cases of flu.
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“This coronavirus is very, very infectious, so every person passes it to three.
“Now that doesn’t sound like much of a difference but if each of those three passes it to three, and that happens at 10 layers, I have been responsible for infecting 59,000 people.”
Some of those people may need hospital after about 10 days since they were infected, he said, and some will have to be moved into intensive care.
But too many at once would overwhelm the NHS, which is more likely to happen in one go if people keep spreading the coronavirus.
His stark warning came as fears rose that pubs and cafes were still being packed out despite government advice not to visit them.
Those businesses have since been ordered to shut down, although people were still seen enjoying a night out on the final day the pubs were open.
Parks and open spaces have become crowded since the pubs shut.
“If we’ve got a limited resource, which we have, a limited number of ventilators, a limited number of doctors, a limited number of nurses, which is fine because we cannot run ourselves with a huge excess capacity all the time, if we overwhelm that, we can’t provide that service of caring for these people properly,” Prof Montgomery said.
Read more: NHS worker asks public to stay at home
Things will be “ugly” and “horrible” for a lot of people, he added, but the “best chance” to save lives will be enough beds, staff and kit to focus on treating them.
“And if you are irresponsible enough to think that you don’t mind if you get the flu, remember, it’s not about you, it’s about everybody else,” he warned.
Watch the interview here