A Cumbrian consultant has addressed claims circulating online that coronavirus has been fabricated stating "is a very real and potentially a very deadly illness".

Dr Jon Sturman, consultant and Clinical Director of intensive care at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, is urging the public not to become complacent about Covid-19.

He said he understands why such claims might have materialised but is keen to remind the public that it is a very severe illness and anyone can be affected.

“I can understand that hospitals have become a bit of a mystery to the public because we’ve had to reduce visiting and relative presence in hospitals but I can certainly reassure people that coronavirus is a very real and potentially a very deadly illness," he said in an interview with BBC Radio Cumbria.

"I have looked after, along with our team, quite a number of patients who have become severely ill with coronavirus.

"In most patients it is a very severe pneumonia - a very severe chest infection- which has got a higher mortality and longer course on intensive care than any other pneumonia that we have known in recent history.

He continued: “The pneumonia is at least three times more likely to keep you intensive care for longer and probably twice as likely to kill you as a result of an infection. It also causes what we call multi organ failure.

"Most patients with Covid don’t just get problems with their lungs but also get problems with their circulation and about 20 per cent of patients develop kidney failure on intensive care so that really hints that it’s not a simple disease and in some patients, particularly the elderly patients it becomes very severe.

"But it can affect everybody and we have seen young patients becoming critically ill as well.”

Although the numbers of Covid-19 cases are on a downward trend Dr Sturman says prevention remains our best protection.

He said: “My impression is that there’s nothing that prevents the disease other than the things that you can do personally to keep healthy and fit.

"Once you have the disease in order to prevent progression there’s reasonably good evidence that some drugs seem to reduce mortality or at least the chances of a patient needing admission to intensive care.

"But they are reasonably small single figure changes to mortality and like everything in medicine prevention is better than cure.”

More people recover from Covid-19 than die and there have now been 352 people discharged from north Cumbria’s hospitals following an admission with the illness.

Dr Sturman added that we must all continue to be vigilant and follow the guidance as it is already down to everyone’s efforts that the NHS was not completely overwhelmed.

“I’m not a virologist or epidemiologist but I see the patients that are most severely affected and if we hadn’t institutionalised all the behavioural methods that we have seen from lockdown then my speciality would have been overwhelmed because we would have had a rush of very critically ill patients all at once," he said.

"Fortunately we have never been anywhere near that in the NHS in terms of having to rationalise healthcare or reaching the absolute bursting point of our resources.

"We are just the tip of a very big iceberg and it’s a case of everyone just playing their part and not just the NHS but the public in general adhering to that.”