The UK will “pay the price” for not going into a coronavirus lockdown earlier and will suffer more infections than Italy, a World Health Organisation expert has warned.
Walter Ricciardi, the Italian government's scientific adviser who called for the country's nationwide quarantine, said the government should have taken action earlier than Monday.
He pointed to bleak images of packed carriages on the London Underground, comparing it to a football match in Milan last month that could have accelerated the outbreak in the region of Lombardy.
40,000 football fans travelled from Bergamo to San Siro stadium to watch Atalanta beat Valencia on February 19.
Mr Ricciardi told Sky News: "When you take the decision late you pay a price in sick people and in deaths.
"When I looked at some images of the London Tube or some mass gatherings that happened when we already had the impression that this was dangerous, this was a kind of example that could have been avoided.
"Having had the example of Italy, the UK could have adopted its (lockdown) much earlier."
He now fears the UK could have a higher infection rate than Italy, with the death toll now standing at 578 after a jump of 113.
Asked how long the country will be under lockdown, he added: "I think at least one month but I guess it could be even longer.”
Italy has reported the most coronavirus-related deaths in the world, standing at 8,215.
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It is the world’s worst-affected country in terms of cases after the US and China, where the virus originated last year.
Last week, dozens of military vehicles have been pictured carrying coronavirus victims across Italy – with morgues too full to hold corpses.
The trucks were pictured driving through the city of Bergamo in the country’s Lombardy region, one of the worst-hit by the virus.
Around 70 coffins were placed on 30 trucks and will be transported to creamatoriums in a dozen locations across Italy, foreign media reports.
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Jean Pierre Ramponi, the medical director of the Chiari hospital in Brescia – also in Lombardy – said: “We prepared ourselves psychologically by seeing the images of China, but it was unthinkable to imagine such devastation.
"Now out of 450 beds, 220 are occupied by people who contracted COVID-19.
“The situation with us, on the outskirts of Brescia, is dramatic, we don't know where to bring patients, hospitals are doing everything, but beyond a certain number they cannot assist.
“There are lines for hours in front of the hospitals.”
- World Health Organisation
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