Supplies of face masks and other protective equipment against the coronavirus are 'rapidly depleting' around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Tuesday.
'Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and health care workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients,' said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.
An estimated 89 million masks, 1.6 million sets of goggles and 76 million pairs of examination gloves are needed to protect health care workers from contracting and spreading the virus that's sickened more than 92,000 people worldwide.
There's been 'severe disruption,' to the global supply chain of this protective equipment, said Dr Tedros, and manufacturing needs to be jump by 40 percent to meet the growing demand.
Instead, shortages and supply hoarding have triggered huge price inflations on vital personal protective equipment (PPE). Face mask prices have surged by six-fold, the cost of gowns has doubled and prices for N95 respirators have tripled.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adghamon Ghebreyesus called on global manufacturers to increase their producto of personal protective equipment by 40%
Medics wearing N95 masks arrive at LifeCare Center in Kirkland, Washington, where five elderly people have died of coronavirus. N95 mask prices have tripled amid shortages
'Stocks are often sold to the highest bidder,' said Dr Tedros.
'We urgently need to increase production' of PPE, he warned.
It's a pattern already emerging in the US, where more than 100 people are now infected.
US consumers have been panic-buying PPE, canned food and cleaning supplies in fear that they might have to shelter at home if the coronavirus starts spreading in their community.
Retailers - from local pharmacies to national chains - have reported shortages, and Amazon has been cracking down on price gouging for masks and other products.
Dr Tedros pled with the public to stop hoarding and