(Dr. David Foster, Infectious Diseases and Critical Care physician at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, addresses the public/Facebook)

A doctor specializing in infectious diseases has a message for Vancouver Islanders.

Dr. David Forrest is an Infectious Diseases and Critical Care physician at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

In a video uploaded to Facebook, he urges Vancouver Islanders who haven’t already done so to start taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, lest we face the overwhelming consequences of ignoring the threat.

“We’re not testing everyone. It’s likely there are hundreds or thousands infected. While it’s true that most people infected are not very sick, some are,” says Forrest.

“And even if only one to two per cent of those infected die, if even 20% of Canadian population developed infection, that’s 140,000 people who will die. That’s staggering.”

He points out that if 20,000 people become infected with COVID-19 in Nanaimo, that means 400 patients could die and many more who would need hospital care.

Based on statistics, if 14% of infected people in Nanaimo require hospital care, that could mean 2,800 people requiring hospitalization in a region whose hospital has a maximum capacity of 400.

Moreover 5% of COVID-19 patients in a region typically require ICU care. This means 1,000 patients requiring ICU care in Nanaimo alone if only 20,000 people or 20% of the population is infected.

“But remember that the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital serves a far greater area – the whole of central island – a population of 200,000. You can double those numbers,” reminds Forrest.

He goes on to add that Nanaimo in particular is worse off than places like Italy, because the NRGH only has about 4.5 ventilator ICU beds per 100,000 people.

“That’s far less than there are in the rest of the western world. The burden on our health care system would be massive and overwhelming.”

For those who believe that young people are immune to contracting COVID-19, Dr. Forrest says although older people and those with serious underlying medical conditions are most at risk for complications, up to 50% of ICU admissions for the virus have been in people under age 50.

This statement appears to be corroborated by a recent graph released by the B.C. Ministry of Health that shows the percentage of the population affected by COVID-19 divided by age group.

(B.C. Ministry of Health)

Dr. Forrest ends his message, like most other health experts and public officials during this pandemic, by urging people to stay home and practice social distancing measures.

He also encourages people to advocate at the municipal level for greater limits, more lockdown of non essential services, and more enforcement of isolation restrictions.

My dear friend has asked me to post this video, this very real outreach from Dr Forrest an Infectious Diseases Specialist at Nanaimo Hospital. It’s hard to watch but his words are sincere. Please share #coronavirus #nanaimo

Posted by Leigh Gibson-Unickow on Monday, March 23, 2020

These prevention measures have been reiterated over and over in the past week or so by Ministry of Health officials as well as doctors and physicians across B.C.

See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island

Currently there are 472 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. including 39 on Vancouver Island.

The federal government recently announced an $82 billion assistance package for Canadians and businesses struggling financially during the global pandemic.

Earlier this week, B.C. joined Alberta and Ontario in declaring a public health emergency in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency to support the health ministry’s public health emergency.

The provincial government also announced the indefinite suspension of all in-person classes at K-12 schools in B.C.

Canada has tightened its borders and is denying entry to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.

U.S. citizens are no longer an exception to this rule, and non-essential travel between U.S. and Canada will be temporarily banned by March 21st. Moreover international flights have now been restricted to international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.

The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19  line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 375,438.

Nearly 16,500 people have died from the illness and 101,584 have made a full recovery.