Weekly Wonder: Shortage of protective medical equipment leaves health care workers vulnerable. New national relief package may help.

By Alex Hemmer
BU News Service

BOSTON – With attention to consumers who might have contributed to “panic buying” and “hoarding,” the World Health Organization issued a statement March 3 declaring a global shortage of personal protective equipment needed to successfully respond to COVID-19. At the forefront of those affected are medical professionals.

“Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others, but shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients,” the statement said.

The report estimated that at least 89 million medical masks are needed per month to help supply health care workers worldwide, as well as 79 million gloves for medical examinations and 1.6 million pairs of protective goggles.

Other in-demand products include surgical gloves and masks, as well as items key to the testing procedure, such as nylon-plastic swabs, plastic vials and chemical reagents.

In the United States – where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is now the highest in the world – a bill to provide a national relief package worth $2.2 trillion was approved by U.S. Congress Friday, $100 billion of which is intended to fund hospitals nationwide. The fund is also intended for supporting small businesses, large corporations as well as individuals affected by unemployment.

In order to meet rapidly growing demands for medical production, WHO has called to increase manufacturing by 40%.

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