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Coronavirus: WHO warns lack of medical supplies

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 4, 2020 - Duration: 02:21s

Coronavirus: WHO warns lack of medical supplies

The World Health Organization warns of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus as China approves use of Roche arthritis drug for patients.

Soraya Ali reports.

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Coronavirus: WHO warns lack of medical supplies

The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday (March 3) of a global shortage of protective equipment and price hikes because of the coronavirus.

They've asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounts.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) DIRECTOR-GENERAL, TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, SAYING: "We are concerned that countries abilities to respond are being compromise by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse.

Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients." The virus has spread across continents and reached about 80 different countries -- with Ukraine and Chile the latest additions.

So what about medical equipment?

Iran -- which has one of the highest death tolls outside of China --- lacks supplies for its doctors and nurses The worst outbreak outside of China is in South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in declared war on the virus, and ordered additional hospital beds and masks.

But this won't be cheap.

The WHO said since the outbreak began, prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, some respirators have tripled in cost and protective gowns are now cost twice as much.

In response, the World Bank announced $12 billion to help countries fight the virus and the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to try to prevent a global recession.

As countries scramble for additional supplies and money, China -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- is looking towards treatment.

Health authorities said on Wednesday (March 4) that China will use a Roche arthritis drug to treat some coronavirus patients in severe conditions.

The drug, Actemra, can be prescribed to coronavirus patients who show serious lung damage and Roche says it may help contain inflammation.

However, there is no clinical trial evidence that the drug will be effective and China's national medical administration has not yet approved it to be sold for coronavirus infections.

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