WHO calls on industry and governments to increase manufacturing of PPE

March 4, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) 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.

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, the WHO said.

“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 Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing of PPE by 40 percent.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged, increasing by six-fold for masks, trebling for N95 respirators and doubling for gowns, according to the WHO.

Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder, the WHO said.

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

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