Italian doctors warn health care system on brink of collapse

Italy has the worst outbreak outside of China with at least 12,000 cases and the Prime Minister issued new measures that most businesses must shut down.
6:55 | 03/12/20

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Transcript for Italian doctors warn health care system on brink of collapse
The pandemic is causing chaos around the globe. Look at the Johns Hopkins tracker and the countries facing cases right now. The emergency growing in Europe. Italy seeing the worst outbreak outside of China with more than 12,000 cases. The prime minister there issuing drastic new measures closing everything except essential businesses. Maggie Rulli joins us now from London with more on the overwhelmed hospitals in Italy. Good morning, Maggie. Reporter: Robin, good morning. The prime minister in Italy becoming almost emotional as he is begging people to stay inside. We're also seeing social media and celebrity campaigns encouraging young people in particular to obey the law of this lockdown. This morning as president trump announces a ban on travel from most of Europe to America, Italy is reeling from the biggest outbreak outside of China. The prime minister announcing an even stricter lockdown for the country's 60 million people allowing only essential services like pharmacies, banks and grocery stores to stay open in an attempt to stop the spread. Hospitals completely crushed by the wave of cases now topping 12,000, and the death toll health experts in Italy warning the U.S., the time to act is now. We have been tsunamied, and eating all the country unless you take immediate actions. Otherwise it will be too little and too late. Reporter: The outbreak even hitting the most famous soccer team in Italy. One of Cristiano Ronald doe's teammates now testing positive for coronavirus. And the nationwide lockdown hitting families hard. An American mother living in Italy describing what it's like in a Facebook post now going viral. Telling "Gma" the United States needs to brace themselves for the virus. My message to people is to not dismiss this, and to take it seriously and to not underestimate it, and to be very -- to make it very clear to them that this is coming and this is already in the united States. You're only weeks behind us, and you need to know that. So people need to take action now. Reporter: And a top infectious disease specialist we spoke to based in Milan told us that places like the U.S. And the uk are just two to three weeks behind the situation that they're currently seeing in Italy, and again, he reiterates now is the time for people to prepare, and guys, just to show you the desperation that they're feeling right now in Milan, look at this. The archbishop there in Milan praying to a statue of Mary. She's known as the symbol of Milan. He is praying for her to protect his city. It's hard not to get emotional when you watch that, guys. A lot of prayers are being said, Maggie. Thank you. Joining us now is our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, and from Washington is Tom Bossert, ABC news national security analyst and a former homeland security adviser and counterterrorism adviser for president trump. Jen, flatten the curve. Explain what that means. You'll hear that a it lo. We started talking about it here about a week ago. What that refers to is what steps can be taken in the setting of an infectious disease outbreak to slow the spread and buy us time. So if you look at this animation and you think of this line across that goes horizontally as health care capacity and you look at the red peak as what could happen without any protective measures or actions taken, that represents patients and burden on the health care system. If you take certain steps, you can literally flatten that curve which not only spreads it out over time, but it helps to reduce overall numbers and that can make the difference not just in how we function in our society, but actually in people's lives and outcomes. And Tom, there's so much confusion and controversy over this travel ban that the president announced last night, whether that can actually help flatten the curve. First he was suggesting it would go to trade, and then he was going to ban all travel. Now it's just Europeans, doesn't even include the United Kingdom and we heard Maggie Rulli say that's where they'll see a huge spike in cases. How much of a difference can this make, and how did he get into the speech with so many holes in it? Yeah. Unfortunately, George, those travel restrictions and additional screening measures are going to have little to no effect at this stage when controlling the spread of the virus. I think people perhaps misunderstand that the virus is here already in large numbers and the reason we're only 10 to 12 days behind Italy and that disease takes some time to show symptoms in the people that have already been infected. So containment at this stage is not the best option. Tom, you have been outspoken about the need to act immediately to ensure that our health care system remains so what more should we be doing right now? Michael, one of the biggest misunderstandings about those measures that Dr. Jen just discussed is that they can be selectively implemented. That's not the case. When we developed these recommendations for the country, we tested one or two, and still achieve this result of flattening that curve and we couldn't. We don't know why, but people now that are deciding to limit events, let's say of 250 people, but keep their schools open, removing one can defeat all and so it's important they understand to do more is to flatten that curve by implementing all of these interventions. We have to keep that in mind. Jen, you are out there. You are an active member of the medical community. What are you seeing? A lot of concern. Some confusion, but again in medicine, we, you know, we do practice drills, you know, so that we can respond. We still have going about taking care of patients with everyday things. That doesn't stop, but I'm seeing really a doubling down on some of those things that Tom mentioned, that I mentioned and I think it's important because those are steps that people can take right now to protect themselves and the community. We're talking about things that are social distancing measures that help both communities and individuals closing schools, canceling large gatherings. We're seeing that left and right, restricting nonessential travel. Cleaning your hands, avoiding close contact with those who are sick. All these other things, cleaning and disinfecting and avoiding known contact with sick people. Those are important, robin and as we've said it before, we have to think about what we can do with not just ourself, but those around us. What if we start feeling sick or our kids? You have to balance out this concern. For sure. Of overwhelming the system. 100%, George. Do what you would have done six months ago. If you have a fever six months ago, you should have been staying home. If you would have gone to an emergency room because your symptoms are that severe, that's what you should do today. Thank you so much. We'll keep covering this all

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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