An Israeli doctor working in the coronavirus epicentre of northern Italy said medics are no longer allowed to give respirators to anyone aged over 60.
Dr Gal Peleg - who works in Parma, Italy - said artificial respiratory machines are so low in numbers access must be limited.
The coronavirus death toll in Italy's worst-hit region has surpassed 3,450 in the last 24 hours after a rise of 360 fatalities in Lombardy.
Dr Peleg said his department makes sure terminally-ill coronavirus patients can say goodbye to their loved ones despite strict quarantine rules, N12 reports.
Today, ministers in Rome were forced to plunge all 60million citizens into lockdown, while ordering all non-essential businesses in the country to shut amid the outbreak.
The pandemic has taken a choke-hold on everyday life, with even Pope Francis retreating indoors to make his weekly address via videolink.
But despite Italy's clampdown on person-to-person contact, the death toll spiralled yesterday from 739 to 4,825 nationwide, marking the deadliest day for a country in the global pandemic so far.
Britain's coronavirus death toll has jumped to match the number of fatalities recorded in Italy two weeks ago, fanning fears the UK is just a fortnight away from being plunged into an equally grim crisis.
The amount of deaths in the UK yesterday jumped to 233, mirroring the figure in Italy on March 7, and rose to 240 today.
And chilling statistics reveal that the UK's trajectory is even outstripping that of Italy, which recently surpassed China in suffering the world's biggest death toll.
Scientists are also forecasting that Britain is braced to follow Italy's rapid spike in cases.
Looking across the continent, the dire situation unfolding in Italy has set alarm bells ringing in the UK which was far slower to enforce robust distancing measures.
Professor Francois Balloux, from University College London, forecast the UK was braced to go the same way as Italy.
He said: 'The trajectory of the epidemic in the UK is so far roughly comparable to the one in Northern Italy, but with the epidemic in Northern Italy two to three weeks ahead of the situation in the UK', according to the Telegraph.
'It is [also] possible that a lockdown strategy similar to the one imposed in Northern Italy may be adopted by the UK and other countries at some point in the future.'
But while implementing draconian isolation measures has not prevented the catastrophic crisis across the continent, UK experts insist that social distancing is 'paramount' to fight the outbreak.
Professor Jason Leitch, national clinical director for Scotland, told BBC Breakfast this morning: 'You can be certain that the United Kingdom is learning as a four-country collective from all of these countries who are working on this.
'And what we've learned, is that social distancing is completely crucial. Crucial to protect you and I, but more importantly crucial to protect our elderly parents or those with pre-existing disease'.
The British government were slower to enforce preventative measures in response to the global pandemic, initially standing firm against a tide of European action which saw schools, pubs and restaurants close.
But as Covid-19 threatened to 'overwhelm' the NHS, Boris Johnson has tacked to order an effective shutdown.
The goal, which he repeatedly hammers home at daily Number 10 press conferences, is to 'flatten the curve' of the rate of infections so the NHS does not creak under the load of fresh cases.
The Prime Minister has laid bare the gravity of the situation, and revealed the UK should be braced to be pounded with an Italian-like situation.
Mr Johnson said: 'The numbers are very stark and they are accelerating. We are only a matter of weeks - two or three - behind Italy.
'The Italians have a superb health care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand.
'The Italian death toll is already in the thousands and climbing. Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread - then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed.'
Yet while the government has begun to mirror the shutdown in Italy, it has stopped short of confining people to their homes.
And Britain is still lagging behind in carrying out testing of suspected cases.
When their first cases - two Chinese tourists - were recorded in late January, the Italians scrambled to screen all those feared to have been contaminated.
In stark contrast, while the UK has ramped up testing, typically only peoples who have gone to hospital have been tested.
So while official amount of recorded cases is 5,018, the government last week said the true figure could be as high as 50,000.
The latest official figures released on Saturday showed the number of people across the UK who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 233, with 53 more deaths in England, two in Wales and one in Scotland.
Italy was at this stage just two weeks ago but has since overtaken China as the country with the most deaths after suffering a total of 4,825 fatalities.
Italian authorities have been ordering citizens to stay indoors for weeks, with schools and universities shut, shops closed except for grocery stores and pharmacies, and heavy restrictions on travel.
But the crisis is underlining how health services in northern Italy have been overwhelmed by the pandemic, with doctors describing hospitals in crisis and many medics working from makeshift tents.
Earlier this week a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticised the failure of Italians to fully quarantine and take the national lockdown seriously.
There have been similar flouting of home confinement rules in Britain which prompted the government's chief scientific adviser begged young people to stop going out.
Sir Patrick Vallance slammed young people's complacency and said 'mixing' in bars and restaurants 'needs to stop' because it is allowing the disease run rampant.
Sir Patrick warned a coronavirus vaccine was still at least six months away and said the only way the outbreak could be delayed until then was if everyone stuck to the Government's tough new social restrictions.
His plea came after Britons were filmed partying into the early hours in packed pubs and nightclubs around the country this week, defying ministers.
It eventually forced the Prime Minister's unprecedented announcement on Friday that all pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres are to shut in the latest move to combat the disease but it is not yet known what impact this will have.
The medieval Italian town where citizens can only leave their homes to go to work, medical appointments, the pharmacy or to buy food
From Kevin Buckley in Cremona, northern Italy, for the Mail on Sunday
In the medieval town of Cremona, an hour south-east of Milan, the emergency decree is biting hard.
Citizens are allowed out of their homes to go to work, medical appointments, the pharmacy, or to buy food. Nothing else.
They must download a Government-produced form to self-certify their reason for being outside and anyone stopped by the police without a 'DPCM' is ordered to sign one there and then. False declarations are punishable by fines or even imprisonment.
The first week of lockdown saw machine-gun toting Carabinieri carry out 140,000 spot checks country wide. Some 20,000 were caught without valid reason to be out.
For a notoriously unruly people, this past fortnight has seen millions of Italians learning regulations which cut to the heart of their enviable way of life. As the death toll has risen, people have begun taking the restrictions much more seriously.
But the Governors of both Lombardy and its neighbouring region of Veneto have grown increasingly strident in their exhortations for citizens to 'restare a casa' - stay at home.
On Friday, Prime Minister Conte responded by banning physical exercise outdoors and travel to second homes. Taking the dog out is still permitted, but only to 'carry out its physiological necessities'.
In normal times, Cremona is referred to as the home of Stradivarius; today is known for being just 15 miles from the initial outbreak.
The town's schools were the first thing to go. Now the Cremonese have lost their beloved passeggiata evening stroll. Night-time disinfectant trucks were carpet-spraying those same deserted streets last week.
Supermarkets in Italy have generally avoided panic buying by assuring normal opening times and re-stocking shelves at speed.
At the busy Famila supermarket in central Cremona, a rigid door policy of one-out one-in was working perfectly on Saturday morning. Coupled with a 'one person per family' rule, it meant an absence of crowds inside, and no extra security.
Large signs exhorting people to respect the Decree's one-metre 'distanza di sicurezza' – safety distance – were superfluous, as queuers afforded each other three metres, before using the obligatory handgel at the entrance. Some stores insist on facemasks for customer
Check-out staff are masked and gloved, and avoid chit chat while shoppers observe a genteel new etiquette as they try to respect respect each other's personal 'exclusion zones'.
There is no rationing, although small bottles of hand sanitiser are now capped at three per person. Yeast is in short supply as Italian women re-discover 'nonna's habit of making home-made pasta and bread.
The reality beneath it all is brutal: these measures are in place to halt 'la strage dei nonni' – the massacre of the granddads. Three quarters of victims are men and the median age of victims is 82.
The entire Lombardy region came down to its last three dozen intensive care beds until patients were transferred elsewhere in Italy.
Eighty per cent of daily arrivals at Cremona's large modern Ospitale Maggiore are COVID19 cases, causing 30-hour waits in its overwhelmed Accident and Emergency department. Exhausted medics have been making internet videos pleading with people to stay indoors.
Deeply-held deathbed traditions are being denied to infected patients. Anguished relatives cannot visit. Patients are reportedly being left to die alone without rosary beads being placed between their hands. Such things hit hard in Catholic Italy.
An hour-long nationwide 'reading of the rosary' was held on Thursday night, presented by the Pope on TV2000, the national religious channel.
It has been an astonishing fortnight, concluding as the Governor of Lombardy called for the government in Rome to authorise sending troops onto the streets.