WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today (03 Mar) reported that “we have now had two weeks without a single reported case of Ebola” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.) He also expressed concern at the severe shortages in the global supply of personal protective equipment “caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse” and which are “leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.”
Dr Tedros said the report from the DRC was very “good news” as a country can be declared free of Ebola after 21 day without new cases or patients receiving treatment.
On the potential shortages of medicines, WHO’S Chief OF Operations Support and Logistics, Paul Molinaro, SAID, “whether it’s through export restrictions or through China’s manufacturing of API is still trying to come back online after the disruption, which I’m sure it will, we are setting up a group now with industry to start looking at those further repercussions in the market.”
Regarding the organization of public events and mass gatherings, the Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Mike Ryan, said, “measured public health decisions and the careful and evidence-based use of social distancing is what we advise.”
He said, “we have a dedicated team, which is a distributed between here on our six regional offices who are actively advising any Member States, or organizations like IOC organizing major events.”
Ryan said, “WHO doesn’t have the authority other than recommend public health measures. But what we do have the authority is to challenge countries when they implement restrictions that are, we believe exceed our advice. And we’ve been doing that systematically. But we have noticed though is that countries that have relayed purely untraveled measures as the only public health intervention have not done so well because when they’ve imported cases, they’ve subsequently been caught off guard.”
Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a six-fold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.
Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.
WHO has so far shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 47 countries, but supplies are rapidly depleting.
Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.