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Intensive care consultant appeals to public to help 'flatten the curve' or hospitals will get 'absolutely overwhelmed'

Dr Ami Jones warned people to adhere to lockdown rules to help 'flatten the curve'

An intensive care consultant at one of Wales' busiest health boards dealing with coronavirus cases has urged the public to adhere to the government lockdown rules in order to "flatten the curve" to keep the number of patients at a manageable level for hospitals.

Dr Ami Jones, a consultant in intensive care medicine, who works for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which has almost half the total number of Covid-19 patients in Wales, told ITV News they have already surged beyond capacity with "very sick and young patients".

"We are very very busy. This whole hospital is busy.

"We have already surged beyond our standard capacity. It's not just the vulnerable and elderly that are getting poorly. My unit is full of 20, 30 and 40-year-olds."

On how prepared The Royal Gwent is, Dr Jones said, "We are very prepared, we have surge plans.

"We are looking to exceed six times our normal critical care capacity. But it's not just a case of giving us ventilators, we need more staff and we need other equipment."

Just last week, a senior doctor at the health board warned the area is seeing "the same pattern as was seen in Italy."

The health board has 590 confirmed cases of coronavirus

Latest figures show Aneurin Bevan Health Board has 590 cases of the total 1,563 in Wales. That is an estimated 100 people per 100,000 of the population in the health board area.

Public Health Wales has warned however the actual numbers across Wales are likely to be higher.

The First Minister said in a press conference on Monday that while Gwent has been identified as a "hotspot", the reasons for this are not "straight forward".

He said there has been a high number of testing of health workers after a member of staff in the NHS there tested positive for Covid-19, in what was described as a "very early case".

Dr Jones said people who think they will not be affected by the virus are "wrong" and asked the public adhere to the lockdown rules in order to help NHS staff deal with "very very sick patients."

She said if this does not happen, hospitals are going to get "absolutely overwhelmed."

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She added, "We are prepared to surge if we need to but we hope we don't. We hope lockdown and social distancing will flatten the curve, but people do need to 'lock down'. Popping to the shops for a paper is not essential - everybody is at risk."

"I've got ITU [intensive care unit] patients on my ward who were previously fit and well so if you think it's not going to affect you and you can just go out and do what you want then you are wrong.

"You will end up in ITU."

Concerns have been raised about the lack of personal protective equipment across hospitals in the UK and when asked, Dr Jones said she feels "very safe in the hospital."

"I actually feel more at risk when I'm out shopping, because it's full of people I can't control who might not be washing their hands."

Dr Jones, who deployed to Afghanistan while in the British Army, said Wales are "ahead of the curve with testing" and the health board has been swift in getting people swabbed.

She said her military experience is helping during the crisis as there are "parallels in how you organise things".

"I always feel like I've got my body armour and I feel safe in the situation I'm going into. Everybody is working really hard, being very professional. We are giving good patient care and I feel reassured what we are delivering to patients is of the highest standard. I hope we are able to continue doing that as patient numbers increase."