Doctors battling Italy’s coronavirus emergency urged other countries yesterday to learn from their experience and impose social distancing policies before it is too late.

The intensive care ward at a hospital in Cremona has been swamped by a “tsunami” of patients in desperate need of respiratory assistance. Those who are given respirators or oxygen bubbles on their heads can take weeks in intensive care to recover, if they do. The hospital has run out of space to store bodies and has been forced to keep them in a nearby church. A new Covid-19 ward has been set up in tents in the car park and army lorries are on hand to transport corpses out of the region if crematoria and funeral services are unable to cope, as has happened in neighbouring Bergamo.

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