GENEVA: Demand for masks, gowns, gloves and other protective gear has risen up to 100-fold and prices have soared due to the China coronavirus, producing a “severe” disruption in global supply, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief said yesterday.
The situation has been made worse by people who are not medical workers buying the protective gear for their own use, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“When supplies are short and demand is high, then there could be bad practices like hoarding in order to sell them at higher prices, and that’s why we ask for solidarity,” Tedros told a briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
“Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal and prices are up to 20 times higher,” and the rush has created supply backlogs of four to six months, he added.
Frontline health workers in China, where 31,211 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported, need the bulk of such supplies, he said.
Tedros said that he had spoken to manufacturers and distributors to ensure supplies for those who need them most, with health care workers a priority, followed by the sick and those caring for them.
The WHO has sent gloves, masks, respirators and other “personal protective equipment” – known as PPE in its jargon – to every region, he said.
Tedros said that he had just spoken to the WHO’s “pandemic supply chain network” which includes manufacturers, distributors, and logistics providers to ensure that protective supplies reach those in need.
“We call on countries and companies to work with WHO to ensure fair and rational use of supplies and the re-balancing of the market.”