LONDON: Britain was only "two or three" weeks behind Italy on the spread of coronavirus, prime minister Boris Johnson said.
In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson said Britain's health service could be overwhelmed.
"Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread - then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed," he said.
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Johnson on Friday ordered pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors in a bid to slow down the accelerating spread of the coronavirus, effectively closing down the country.
"I do accept that what we're doing is extraordinary: We're taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that," Johnson said.
"It's a huge wrench to do that, everybody understands that," he said. "It's heartbreaking to think of the businesses that will face difficulties as a result of the measures this country has had to take."