WHO raises concerns over shortage of medical supplies

WHO calls on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 per cent to meet rising global demand.

The World Health Organization has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.

But shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled. Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.

WHO has so far shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 47 countries,* but supplies are rapidly depleting.

Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.

Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings, and the effective management of supply chains.

WHO is working with governments, industry and the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to boost production and secure allocations for critically affected and at-risk countries.

To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing by 40 per cent. The organisation said governments should develop incentives for industry to ramp up production. This includes easing restrictions on the export and distribution of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in New Zealand in a person in their 60s recently returned from Iran. The results of the test were formally reported to the Ministry of Health on Friday, February 28. New Zealand is the 48th country to have a confirmed case of COVID-19.

As of 3 March 2020, there have been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Fifteen of the initially reported cases in Australia all had a direct or indirect travel history to Wuhan, China

Ten cases are associated with the Diamond Princess repatriation flight from Japan. All of these people have returned to their home states for medical care.

Seven cases are reported to have had a direct or indirect travel history to Iran, while one case reported in a health care worker did not have a history of travel to any high risk countries in recent weeks.

Earlier this week a 78-year-old man from Perth became the first person in Australia to die from the coronavirus. The man was one of the Australian citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Across the world, there have been about 89,907 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and 3,084 reported deaths. Of confirmed cases reported globally, the case fatality rate is approximately 3.4 per cent. The case fatality rate in countries and regions outside mainland China is 1.8 per cent.

The majority of cases of COVID-19 have been reported from mainland China – 80,174. 9,733 cases have been reported from 74 countries and regions outside mainland China. New cases – especially from South Korea, Italy and Iran – are rapidly increasing.

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

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