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WHO warns of global shortage of coronavirus protective equipment

The latest:

  • There is a shortage of gowns, masks and protective equipment needed to fight coronavirus, health officials say.
  • The WHO reports 31,211 confirmed coronavirus cases in China with 637 deaths. There are also 270 cases in 24 other countries, with one death.
  • Plane chartered by Canada to airlift people out of Wuhan lands at CFB Trenton, with passengers to be quarantined for 14 days.
  • Cruise ships are still under quarantine, and more coronavirus cases are reported on ship off Japan’s coast.
  • The Chinese doctor who raised concern about emerging virus in Wuhan dies, local hospital says.
  • Public health officials say coronavirus risk is low in Canada.
  • WATCH: What we actually know about the coronavirus.

The world is facing a chronic shortage of gowns, masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against a spreading coronavirus epidemic, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.

The UN agency has been sending testing kits, masks, gloves, respirators and gowns to every region, Tedros told the WHO executive board in Geneva.

“This afternoon I will be speaking to the pandemic supply chain network to identify the bottlenecks and find solutions and push [for] fairness in distribution of equipment,” he said.

Tedros said demand is up — and so are prices.

The leader of the WHO said he spoke to manufacturers, distributors and logistics providers to make sure that supplies like N95 masks get to the health-care workers who need them.

“There is limited stock of PPE and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most in the places that need it most,” he said. The first priority is health-care workers, he said, followed by people who are sick and caregivers.

“We all have a part to play in keeping each other safe,” he told reporters who gathered for the daily briefing in Geneva.

As of 6 a.m. Geneva time (midnight ET) there were 31,211 confirmed coronavirus cases in China and 637 deaths, as well as 270 cases in 24 other countries with one death, Tedros said.

“For the last two days there had been fewer reported infections in China, which is good news, but we caution against reading too much into that. The numbers could go up again,” he said.

WATCH: Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergency program, talks about sharing information on coronavirus.

The WHO says it can deal with misunderstandings around the coronavirus, but misinformation is another matter entirely. 1:34

During its technical briefing for member states, there was discussion about naming the virus — which emerged in a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.

The WHO has already assigned an interim name of 2019-nCOV (novel coronavirus) acute respiratory disease.

“We thought it very important that we provide an interim name so no location was associated with the name. I’m sure you have seen many media reports that are still calling this, using the name Wuhan or using China,” WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told the board.

“We wanted to ensure that there was no stigma associated with this virus, and so we’ve put out this interim name,” she said.

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said: “I think the bigger point here is to ensure that some of the actions, some of the reactions internationally, it is the responsibility of us all to ensure there is no stigma associated with this disease.

“The unnecessary, unhelpful profiling of individuals based on ethnicity is utterly and completely unacceptable and it needs to stop. Governments have a responsibility to communicate with their populations on this,” Ryan told the board.

More cases on cruise ship

The outbreak has sparked travel restrictions, airline cancellations and the quarantine of people on board at least two cruise ships. 

One of the ships, the Diamond Princess, has hundreds of Canadians on board, including Trudy Clement of Callander, Ont. 

There were 41 new cases among about 3,700 people quarantined on the cruise ship moored off Japan, taking the total on board to 61.

Princess Cruises said in a statement that of the 41 who tested positive for coronavirus:

  • 21 are from Japan.
  • 8 are from the United States.
  • 5 are from Australia.
  • 5 are from Canada.
  • 1 is from Argentina.
  • 1 is from the U.K.

According to the cruise company, the Japanese health ministry said that the quarantine will end Feb. 19, unless there are “unforeseen developments.”

Clement said on Friday that seeing the number of cases rise has been scary.

“It’s distressing. We’ve seen the ambulances coming and going all day long. Just looking over our balcony we’ve seen the people loaded on and taken away,” she told CBC News Network’s Heather Hiscox. 

WATCH | See how a Canadian passenger is coping with cruise ship quarantine:

‘It’s extremely scary,’ says Trudy Clement, who describes being on the ship as ‘not an ideal’ situation. 4:44

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