WHO: The chronic, global shortage of PPE 'is one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives'

  • During a media briefing March 27, the World Health Organisation’s director-general said the chronic, global shortage of personal protective gear “is one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives” from the novel coronavirus.
  • The message came from an earlier meeting the WHO had with 50 ministers of health around the world who shared what they have learned and their challenges.
  • While WHO continues to ship PPE to countries in need, the director-general said the problem can’t fully be solved without “international cooperation and international solidarity.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Before the World Health Organisation’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusthe, addressed reporters around the world March 27, he met with 50 ministries of health from countries including China and Singapore to discuss what they have learned in their fight against the novel coronavirus and what challenges they have faced.

Several themes emerged when it came to controlling the virus, Tedros told journalists: The need for early detection and isolating of confirmed cases; the need for identification, follow-up, and quarantining and of contacts, as well as the need to optimise care, build trust, and engage communities in the fight.

One of the most pressing challenges was the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. “The chronic, global shortage of personal protective equipment is one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives,” Tedros said.

He added that the WHO has shipped almost 2 million protective gear items to 74 countries, and is preparing to send “a similar amount” to 60 more countries, “but much more is needed.”

“This problem can only be solved with international cooperation and international solidarity,” Tedros said.”When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk.”

Developed countries around the world have been plagued with shortages of masks and other kinds of PPE

Tedros said that healthcare workers in low- and middle-income countries deserve the same protection as those in wealthier countries, such as the US and the UK, which, despite their resources, have also faced a dire shortage of appropriate gear.

On March 24, Business Insider reported California hospitals had turned to seamstresses, and New York doctors were reusing masks to handle the shortage of N95 masks that protect against airborne illness like COVID-19.

US healthcare workers have also taken to social media using the hashtag #GetMePPE to beg congressmen and the vice president to get the “personal protective equipment” they need.

In the UK, doctors have threatened to quit if they’re not provided effective protective equipment.

“The longer this epidemic goes on for, if doctors feel that there is a widespread lack of personal protective equipment, then some doctors may feel they have no choice but to give up the profession they love, because they feel so abandoned by not being given the PPE that the World Health Organisation recommends,” Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, told the Guardian.

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