Governments are taking emergency steps to ease shortages of face masks for front-line doctors and nurses dealing with the spread of the new coronavirus.
The French government announced it would claim supplies of protective masks, while the United States relaxed rules on the kind of masks health-care workers can use.
“We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment, caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We can’t stop covid-19 without protecting our health workers.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave health-care workers the okay to use an type of respirator mask often used to protect construction workers from dust and debris. The masks, which have a close fit and filter out 95 percent of particles, are also frequently used to stop the spread of bacteria in hospitals and operating rooms.
France’s president announced the government will take control of current and future stocks of face masks to ensure they could go to health workers and coronavirus patients, and the finance minister warned that binge-shopping for household essentials could trigger shortages.
In the United States, congressional aides said negotiations are nearing completion on an emergency bill to pay for the development of a vaccine.
U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams urged calm: “caution, preparedness, but not panic.”
Worldwide, more than 92,000 people have been sickened and 3,100 have died of the coronavirus illness, covid-19. More than half of those infected have already recovered.