Doctors from Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., have called on the provincial health officer to introduce stricter measures to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus in the province.

In the letter sent to Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday, the physicians say the closure of non-essential businesses and the enforcement of social distancing measures is critically needed to avoid a “catastrophic number of preventable deaths” and strain on the health care system.

“At our current rate of spread, our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a few weeks without drastic action,” the hospital’s head of medicine, Dr. Gerald Da Roza, writes on behalf of the hospital’s physicians.

“Our team of physicians . . . is working tirelessly to overcome shortages in staffing and resources,” he continues. “However, we will lose this battle unless we act immediately to contain this virus in the community.”

Da Roza warns at B.C.’s current rate of cases and deaths reported, the province is on the same track as Italy, which has imposed a national lockdown after becoming the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe.

On Saturday alone, Italy’s death toll surged by 793 fatalities, while its total number of cases skyrocketed to 53,578, up from 47,021. The increase in deaths marked a second record 24-hour jump, after 627 people died Thursday.

Da Roza says such quick “doubling” of cases within a matter of days has led to Italian doctors having to make impossible choices on who to treat and who to turn away — and that B.C. could see similar circumstances if officials don’t act.

“A community lockdown may seem drastic, but experiences throughout the rest of the world clearly demonstrate how critical it is to act decisively and urgently,” he writes.

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