The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a warning on Tuesday concerning the “rapid exhaustion” of stocks of protection gear to be used in the fight against the coronavirus, a shortfall in supply that endangers the global response to the epidemic.
The warning comes at a time when, in France, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that the State was requisitioning “all stocks and production of face masks” at the producers’ and distributers’ in order to provide them to carers and persons infected with the coronavirus.
In Geneva (Switzerland), the WHO director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for an increase of 40% in the current production of personal equipment.
The specialised WHO agency estimates that 89 million medical masks will be required every month worldwide, along with 76 million gloves and 1.6 million protection glasses.
“The WHO has dispatched nearly half a million sets of individual protection equipment to 27 countries, but stocks are rapidly running out,” the WHO head declared at a press conference.
“We are concerned about the fact that the response capacity of countries is being compromised by the serious and growing disruption to the world supply of individual protection gear, brought about by the increase in demand, stockpiling and poor utilisation,” he added.
This “shortage” of gloves, medical masks, protection glasses and other equipment endangers the doctors and nurses treating patients during this epidemic, which appeared at the end of December in the Chinese province of Hubei.
Over 92,000 victims have been counted in the world since, more than 3,100 of whom have died, with 77 countries and territories being affected, according to a report confirmed on Tuesday through official sources.
During the last 24 hours, China recorded 129 new cases, the lowest figure since January 20, according to the WHO.
Chinese figures indicate a “decline since the end of January, a regular decline,” Maria Van Kerkhove, one of those behind the WHO response to Covid-19, informed the media on Tuesday. “We think the decline is genuine,” she assured.
Although the virus is often compared to the flu, Ghebreyesus explained that this was not in fact the case, emphasising that the coronavirus is much more dangerous, with a death rate now estimated at 3.4% globally, as against the much lower rate of 1% for flu.
And if large numbers of people have developed an immunity to seasonal flu over the years, “no one is immune” to the new coronavirus, the director general of the WHO stated.
It is in any case possible that the coronavirus epidemic can still be stemmed, which is not the case with flu.
The organisation also emphasised that according to figures provided by China, only 1% of reported cases did not show any symptoms. Most of them developed symptoms in the first two days.