Amid the global health crisis of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that there is a shortage of protective gear, and this endangers healthcare workers.
The vast spread of the coronavirus has led to a rapid depletion of essential protective gear, including goggles, masks, and suits used by health workers who are in the front line of the battle against the coronavirus.
The depletion of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies is due to its high demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse, putting lives at risk.
“Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others,” WHO said on its website.
“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,” it added.
Hong Kong - 30 January 2020: Mask supply shortage in Hong Kong. Image Credit: Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock
Protective gear, including basic ones such as masks, goggles, and gloves, are running out. The manufacturers cannot cope with the increased demand for the products. Aside from that, hoarding and misuse have led to the depleting supply.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in late December 2019, prices have surged. The price of surgical masks has increased six-fold, while the price of gowns has doubled.
Without a secure supply of this protective equipment, healthcare workers face a serious threat of being infected and infecting others.
The WHO encourages the industry and governments across the globe to boost supply and impose measures to stem hoarding. Without protective gear, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners are not protected.
Though the WHO has provided nearly half a million sets of PPEs to 47 countries, the stocks are rapidly depleting due to the widespread threat of the coronavirus. It has spread to more than 83 countries, infecting nearly 95,120 people and killed more than 3,200 people, mostly in Hubei province where the virus originated.
Also, the WHO estimated that the response in battling COVID-19 would call for 89 million medical masks, 76 million pairs of gloves, and 1.6 million goggles every month.
The rapid spread of the virus
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the cases in the country are rapidly increasing, with a jump of 17 in one day, topping the total cases at 153. Tensions rise as the number of people who died from the coronavirus disease increased to eleven.
“What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
She noted that the scenario was the same in China, wherein older and those who are immunocompromised or have an underlying medical condition are twice as likely to become seriously ill than those who are younger, wherein most cases are mild. The risk of being seriously ill from the coronavirus increases with age.
The CDC reports that among the cases confirmed, 22 are travel-related, while 11 are considered from the person-to-person transmission. At least 48 of the cases are people who were evacuated from Wuhan City, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the ship that was quarantined with more than 3,000 on board in Japan.
A top CDC official, Dr. Anne Schuchat, said that WHO will most likely declare the coronavirus a global pandemic when sustained human-to-human transmission occurs in China. The current outbreak already meets two of the three criteria to consider it a pandemic.