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Welfare cuts have left UK undefended against coronavirus

18 200 772

Along with other countries, the UK is braced for an epidemic of coronavirus cases, with health officials in the country warning that widespread transmission is now "highly likely".

If this happens, many will need hospital treatment, and concerns are being raised that the country is woefully ill-equipped to manage the crisis.

One of the keys to ensuring effective treatment for critical-condition cases of coronavirus is the availability of a high number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds. This is because, if the UK follows the pattern in China, as many as one in five coronavirus patients could need intensive care in order to recover.

But, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK has just 6.6 ICU beds per 100,000 people, compared with Germany's 29.2, Italy's 12.5 and France's 9.7.

In its annual Budget, delivered this week, the UK government produced a welcome series of financial stimulus packages designed to help fund the NHS, including six billion pounds for 50,000 more nurses, 40 new hospitals and 50 million more GP surgery appointments, but the overriding impression is of a government still focusing its priorities around shielding the UK economy from the virus, but not yet its people.

In terms of managing the supply of treatment to fight coronavirus, the financial stimulus to the NHS is too little, too late for an over-pressured health system that has been underfunded for an entire decade.

Out of the G7 countries, the UK's health spending per person was until this week's financial stimulus announcement, the second-lowest, spending 2,989 pounds a person in 2017 - far behind France and Germany. This is a consequence........

© Al Jazeera