The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading worldwide. Italy emerged early on as the country with the largest outbreak outside Asia. The outbreak in Northern Italy demonstrates that it is fundamental to contain the virus spread at a very early stage of diffusion. At later stages, no containment measure, even if strict, can prevent the saturation of the hospitals and of the intensive care units in any country. Here we show that it is possible to predict when the intensive care units will saturate, within a few days from the first cases of COVID-19 intensive care patients. Using early counts of intensive care patients, we predict the saturation for Lombardy, Italy. Governments should use the Italian precursor to control the outbreak of COVID-19 and prevent the saturation of their intensive care units to protect their population.
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