EASTER is supposed to be a joyous time of hope and renewal but this year it could well see the worst holiday period any of us will have ever experienced.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading epidemiologist and an adviser to the UK Government, told MPs this week that while there remained uncertainty about the rate of spread of the coronavirus, "if the current measures work as we would expect them, then we will see intensive care demand peak in approximately two to three weeks and then decline thereafter".

It was, of course, Prof Ferguson, himself recovering from the virus, whose modelling - that 250,000 deaths could occur in the UK without mass suppression - led to an acceleration of the Government’s strategy and the lockdown the country is now experiencing.

Fellow expert, Professor Chris Whitty, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer, suggested the NHS would just about cope with the pressures of the storm that is about to break over our country. But he noted that it would be a “close run thing”.

The fact a field hospital is being established at London’s Docklands in the vast kilometre-long Excel Centre with 4,000 beds and others are planned across the country gives an idea about how the authorities view what might be about to happen in the next few weeks.

In London, the epicentre of the UK outbreak with a third of the cases, intensive care beds are now being taken up at a rate of knots. Chris Hopkins of NHS Providers said the level of admissions was coming in wave after wave with medical staff likening it to a “continuous tsunami”.

Of course, every country is different and at different stages in its battle with the viral monster. But this week amid all the grim news with increased cases and deaths Donald Trump won the Dr Pangloss prize for naïve optimism.

He told a White House press conference: "We're going to be opening relatively soon...I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter."

He later added: "Easter is a very special day for me; you'll have packed churches all over our country."

I doubt it. Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, respectfully disagreed with The Donald and pointed out a forecaster had suggested America was witnessing not a “freight train coming across our country; we’re looking at a bullet train”.

The Empire State is bearing the brunt of the surge in American cases and the Big Apple is the epicentre.

Confirmed cases in the US neared 70,000 with more than 1,000 deaths. New York state has accounted for more than 30,000 of these cases and close to a third of the deaths, most of which have occurred in New York City.

Dr Steve Kasspidis, who works at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, the most infected part of the city, was blunt, telling Sky News: "It's hell; biblical. I kid you not. People come in, they get incubated, they die. The cycle repeats. The system is overwhelmed all over the place. 9/11 was nothing compared to this."

Of course, Queens is where the President was born and grew up.

This week, the Senate passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, the largest economic stimulus in US history, that will put money directly into people’s pockets. It came on the back of 3.3 million Americans last week filing jobless claims; more than four times the previous record.

But despite this attempt to bolster the US economy, it remains possible Trump’s approach to the pandemic could, come November, cost him the White House.

As for the future of our own leader, normal politics has been put on hold as the country’s mind is focused on saving as many of our fellow citizens as possible.

There have been times when Boris Johnson, standing between the headmasterly boffins in Downing St, has come across as a student, who has suddenly been told he is in charge of the school.

The Prime Minister’s performance in the national emergency – outshone thus far by the super-sleek Chancellor, Rishi Sunak – will simply confirm people’s previous opinions of him; his admirers will find his underlying breezy temperament refreshing in such a crisis while his detractors will believe his demeanour simply confirms their belief that he is a buffoon and simply not up to the job.

The reality is, for better or ill, Mr Johnson is set to be the person in No 10 who leads the UK through this unfolding nightmare.

If its peak is to be at Easter, then it could still be a time of hope; hope the number of deaths is not as high as feared and the spike ends quickly thanks to the nation’s heroic collective effort.

But even if this happens, the struggle will go on.

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, who yesterday cautiously declined to say when the peak might hit, admitted: “Overall, we are looking at a scenario of over a six-month period but, not necessarily, with a lockdown of this level going on throughout that time.” This timescale would take us to October.

The Olympics may have been postponed but Britain, and many other countries, are now set for a marathon and the most important endurance test of our lives.