The UK has missed the critical containment window to implement social distancing policies that would flatten the curve and slowdown infections, suggesting the country could see an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases over the next month, sort of like what's happening in Italy at the moment.
The Guardian spoke with a senior consultant at a top hospital in the UK, who warned hospital beds are already 98% full, and the patients who need ICU-level treatment might not be able to receive it.
The senior consultant said hospitals across the UK don't have enough protective gear like N-95 masks and goggles, and the entire National Health Service (NHS) healthcare system is understaffed to handle a virus outbreak.
If cases and deaths were to increase exponentially over the next 2-4 weeks, there wouldn't be enough hospital beds and ventilators for the severely ill, which would imply the mortality rate would increase.
The consultant said plans to increase ICU capacity are underway though trained medical staff would remain in a shortage.
"I'm worried that the NHS is completely ill-equipped to handle Covid-19," the person said, adding that, "when Boris Johnson talks about our wonderful NHS and how well-prepared it is, that's bullshit. He either doesn't have a clue or is trying to falsely reassure people. The NHS has been hit hard before, by underfunding, terrorist attacks and tough winters. But usually crises are stretched over a period of time. With coronavirus it will all come at once."
The consultant suggested that the government missed the containment window:
"I'm amazed it has taken the NHS and the government so long to get ready to deal with a crisis. We need to free up doctors and NHS staff to prepare for what's coming. We should be cancelling outpatient clinics, suspending waiting-time targets, like the four-hour A&E wait and the 18-week target for outpatient treatment, until this is all over - and be open with the public about why this is happening. Soon the NHS is going to be faced with a huge amount people with Covid-19."
With an influx of patients expected to overwhelm the UK hospital system in the weeks ahead, the consultant fears that "we are going to end up in the same situation as Iran and Italy, where health services have struggled to cope."
If an Italy-style scenario were to happen, then the military would likely be deployed at hospitals, supermarkets, and on streets.
Defense sources told The Sun that troops would build tented field hospitals, deep-clean public buildings, and keep the order during a virus outbreak.