HALIFAX -- A Maritime man is pleading with Canadians to listen to government and health officials, after experiencing a COVID-19 lockdown while in Italy.

With hundreds more deaths reported Monday alone, Italy is now second only to China in feeling the brunt of COVID-19.

Michael Uhlarik is currently in self-isolation, but says he feels incredibly fortunate to have gotten out of the European country last week.

Uhlarik reached out to CTV News because he feels he has a moral obligation to share what he’s learned about the coronavirus and why's it's so important to pay attention to advice we're getting from health professionals right now.

“What Italy has done for the rest of the world and the west anyway, Europe and North America, is bought us time,” says Uhlarik.

With ever-tighter restrictions announced daily, Italy is scrambling to set up new intensive care units in a number of hospitals and exhausted healthcare workers are being run off their feet.

“I can tell you, personally, it's probably the biggest challenge I've had in my career so far,” says Maurizio Cecconi, head of anesthesia and intensive care at Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, Italy.

Uhlarik says the Italians are characterizing the COVID-19 response as wartime medicine.

“They are making terrible decisions that no one should ever have to make on a daily, hourly basis, taking one person off of a ventilator to save another,” says Uhlarik.

The U.S. surgeon general says America is now at a crossroads, with the same number of cases Italy had two weeks ago.

“Do we really want to lean into social distancing and mitigation strategies and flatten the curve, or do we want to just keeping going on with business as usual and end up being Italy?” asks Jerome Adams, surgeon general of the United States.

Uhlarik says his intent is not to scare people, only to encourage them to listen to the logical reasons health officials are telling us to social distance right now.

“It is an epic, epic struggle and we have precious time here to prepare,” says Uhlarik. “For the public, number one, don't panic. Number two, stay home. You could save a life just by not going out unless you absolutely have to.”

It's a reality he says Italians have learned the hard way and are hoping the rest of us can learn from them.