Smokers are twice as likely to end up in intensive care or die if they contract coronvarius, a senior doctor has warned as he urged people to ditch cigarettes amid the pandemic.
Dr John Patterson, Oldham CCG's chief clinical officer, said that now is the most crucial time to quit smoking as the number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in the UK continues to rise.
As of March 31, more than 900 people in Greater Manchester have tested positive for the virus, with around half of them requiring hospital treatment.
Dr Patterson said that smokers were more at risk of developing severe coronavirus, and more likely to die from the virus.
"Smokers are 40pc more likely to suffer severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to end up in ICU (intensive care units) or pass away if they have Covid," he said.
"If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to stop smoking.
"You need to look at your own personal self care and look after your conditions.
“In terms of people’s risk - let’s think about our smoking, let’s think about maximising our health, let’s think about listening to the social distancing, the staying indoors, the necessary trips, because that's the real thing that people have to do to minimise their risk.”
His stark warnings follow other experts' advice, including respiratory authority Keir Lewis who said smokers are more vulnerable to the effects of the virus because their lungs are already weakened.
Mr Lewis, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Swansea University, said smokers have damaged the cells protecting their nose and airways.
This means they are more likely to develop lung problems as a result of contracting Covid-19.
Many smokers will also have existing lung conditions which puts them at an even greater risk of developing viral pneumonia from the disease.
Speaking in the House of Commons in March, Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock said: “It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of coronavirus worse.”
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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has also recommended that people take this opportunity to quit smoking.
He told the Commons health committee that smokers face an 'additional vulnerability' compared to other healthy people from respiratory illnesses.
In general, Professor Whitty said: "They are more likely to get it and their immune system is less good."
“If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it," he added.