Normal life will not resume in Britain for at least six months, a top medical adviser has warned, just as the UK government placed all parts of the country on an "emergency footing".
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the nation would not be in "complete lockdown" for half a year but said social distancing measures would be lifted only gradually.
Dr Harries said the three-week reviews on the measures to slow the disease's spread were likely to continue for six months and that their success would be judged on slowing its rate.
A sudden lifting could see the nation's sacrifices "wasted" with another spike in deaths, which have reached 1,228 in Britain, a rise of 209.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the emergency footing now applied to all parts of the UK.
"This means that we are establishing strategic co-ordination centres across the whole country," he said.
The pressure on hospitals is getting so bad that intensive care is now being limited to those "reasonably certain" to survive, according a consultant at a large London hospital.
A department head at Imperial College Healthcare said fewer marginal patients were being selected for ventilator treatment because so many serious cases required a fortnight on the machines.
Imperial acknowledged that "very poorly patients with coronavirus may need to be on a ventilator for extended periods", adding that "for some patients, this would not be in their best interests".
It follows a UK study that found that the death rate for Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units is nearly 50pc.
A senior consultant at Imperial said: "As we learn more about the disease, we are being much more careful about which patients are being considered for critical care.
"In normal times, we will give most people the benefit of the doubt. That has changed. With this infection, you need a couple of weeks on a ventilator, so with resources being used for such a long time, you have to be reasonably certain the person is going to get better. Delaying their death for two or three weeks is not the right thing for them or for society."
Worldwide, the count has approached 700,000 infections, and deaths have topped 32,000.
World Health Organisation figures showed the daily increase in new infections was eclipsing 70,000, up from about 50,000 earlier in the week, and more than six times what it was two weeks ago. However, more than 145,000 people have recovered, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.
Spain and Italy yesterday demanded more EU help to fight their crisis. Italy reported more than 750 new deaths yesterday, bringing the country's total to nearly 10,800.
But the number of new infections showed signs of narrowing again, with officials expressing cautious optimism that the most severe shutdown in the industrialised West is showing results.
Italy's civil protection agency said more than 5,200 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the lowest number in four days, for a total of almost 98,000 infections.
Spain moved to tighten its lockdown yesterday as it hit another daily record of almost 840 dead. The country's overall toll was more than 6,500.
Spain's health emergencies chief, Fernando Simon, said the country's infection rate fell yesterday to 9pc, down from 18pc three days before.
But he said the number of people in intensive care units kept rising and hospitals were at their limits in several regions.
Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: "Europe must demonstrate that it is able to respond to this historic call." Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also called for a more vigorous response from the EU.
"It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge," Mr Sanchez said.
In India, tens of thousands of people have tried to leave cities such as New Delhi trying to reach their rural homes after work disappeared overnight due to a 21-day lockdown.