Manufacturers need to “urgently increase” their production of critical supplies like gowns and gloves as health-care workers around the world try to treat a growing number of patients infected with COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s top official says.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said Tuesday that shortages are leaving health workers “dangerously ill-equipped” to care for patients with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Geneva-based health agency has been shipping personal protective equipment to countries who need it, Tedros said, but “supplies are rapidly depleting.” Tedros noted that supplies can take months to deliver and urged governments to develop incentives aimed at getting manufacturers to ramp up production of critical medical gear.
The WHO reported 90,893 cases globally, with 3,119 deaths. Most of those cases and deaths were reported in China, but there are an increasing number of countries reporting cases of COVID-19.
Tedros said 12 countries have recently reported their first cases.
“The actions these newly affected countries take today will be the difference between a handful of cases and a larger cluster,” the WHO chief said.
Earlier Tuesday, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau and other G7 finance ministers issued a joint statement after a conference call saying they are closely following the impact the virus is having on economies and markets.
“Alongside strengthening efforts to expand health services, G7 finance ministers are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase,” the joint statement said.
Read on for a sense of what’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada, the U.S. and some of the hardest-hit communities around the world.
Here’s what’s happening in Canada
Ontario announced two more cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total in the province to 20.
Tuesday’s announcement comes a day after health officials announced that travellers landing in Canada from Iran would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the measure, which is similar to one already in place for travellers coming from Hubei, China, was put in place after new cases here were linked back to travel in Iran.
There are no plans for travel bans, Tam said.
“Viruses know no borders and we have to balance our public health measures knowing that they are never completely perfect.”
Health officials in Canada have reported 29 cases of COVID-19: 20 in Ontario, eight in British Columbia and one in Quebec.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, which is assessing risk as the outbreak develops, said the risk in Canada from COVID-19 is low.
Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.
The Food and Drug Administration commissioner said Tuesday the U.S. should have testing kits available by the end of the week that would give labs the capacity to perform about 1 million coronavirus tests.
The news from the FDA comes after Seattle-area health officials confronting the nation’s first community coronavirus outbreak are planning new containment measures, ranging from possible school closings to temporary quarantine housing for mildly ill homeless patients.
“We’re pivoting to a more community-based approach, very similar to what we use for influenza epidemics, where we give people and schools and businesses good advice on how they can reduce their risks,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County’s public health agency, told reporters.
The number of cases in the U.S. — including travellers who are believed to have contracted COVID-19 abroad and those who were repatriated from areas like Wuhan — is over 100.
Here’s what’s happening in South Korea
In South Korea, the number of cases continues to rise. On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in ordered additional hospital beds and more face masks to be made available as the number of cases rose by 600 in the worst epidemic of any nation outside China.
He apologized for shortages of face masks and promised support for virus-hit small businesses in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, which has now reported 5,186 cases and 28 deaths.
“The entire country has entered war against the infectious disease as the crisis in Daegu and Gyeongbuk province has reached the highest point,” he told a cabinet meeting, referring to the two hardest-hit parts of the country.
The virus, which originated in China late last year, began to spread rapidly in South Korea after it entered the congregation of a fringe Christian group in Daegu city, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
Here’s what’s happening in Japan
In Japan, it’s not just schools that closed as the government tries to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to local broadcaster NHK, a major mall operator is shortening hours and a gym chain is shuttering almost all of its outlets.
In Japan, questions continued to build about how the virus might affect the Olympics.
The country’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said Tuesday the country was “making the utmost effort” to proceed with the games’ planned opening on July 24 in Tokyo. But she told parliament the country’s contract with the International Olympic Committee only specifies that the games be held during the year 2020, and that they could be delayed to later in the year if necessary.
Here’s what’s happening in Italy and Europe
In Italy, the count of infected people continued rising to 2,036 and officials said it could take up to two weeks to know whether measures including quarantines in 11 northern towns were working.
France, which has reported 191 confirmed cases of COVID-19, on Tuesday reported its fourth death due to a coronavirus infection. The ministry of health gave no detail about the person’s age or nationality.
The news of the latest death came as The Associated Press reported that the president of France said the government is requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks.
Earlier, France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said around 120 schools have been ordered to close, most in Brittany and the Oise region north of Paris, which have been hit hard by COVID-19. He told LCI television it was probable that more schools could close and confirmed that he had ordered a freeze on all school trips. But he cautioned against rushing to a general shutdown of the education system.
“It wouldn’t make sense to confine everyone at home, to paralyze the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine on Tuesday reported its first confirmed case of the new virus in a man who had recently arrived from Italy.
Here’s what’s happening in Iran and the Middle East
Iran’s supreme leader put the Islamic Republic on war footing Tuesday against the new coronavirus by ordering its armed forces to assist health officials in combating the outbreak — the deadliest outside of China — that authorities say has killed 77 people.
“Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
Watch: Iran struggling with medical equipment shortages, says WHO
After downplaying the coronavirus as recently as last week, Iranian authorities said Tuesday they had plans to potentially mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus.
There are now over 2,530 cases of the new coronavirus across the Mideast. Of those outside Iran in the region, most link back to the Islamic Republic.
“Things tend to look worse before they get better,” Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO emergency program director, said of the recent increase in cases in Iran, which have come from several cities.
Here’s what’s happening in mainland China and Hong Kong
The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,943 as of the end of Monday, up by 31 from the previous day.
Mainland China had 125 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday, down from 202 cases a day earlier and the lowest since the authority started publishing nationwide data in January.
Excluding cases in Hubei province, where the outbreak first started, there were 11 new cases in mainland China on Monday. Seven of the new cases were imported, involving Chinese nationals who had travelled from Italy to Qingtian county. None of them had been to Hubei province or its capital Wuhan, the Qingtian government said.
All travellers entering Beijing from the virus hotspots of South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy will have to be quarantined for 14 days, the deputy secretary general of the Beijing Municipal Government, Chen Bei, said on Tuesday.
Shanghai earlier said it would also compel visitors who had recently travelled to countries with “relatively serious virus conditions” to submit to 14 days of isolation, but it did not name the countries.
Dandong, the northern Chinese city that borders North Korea, said it would test all visitors who arrived in the city from Feb. 12. Those who arrived from Feb. 28 will be tested at designated hotels where they can undergo quarantine if infected.
“We are trying to distance ourselves from the virus, but what cannot be broken is the flesh and blood relationships between overseas Chinese and their families in their hometowns,” said the government of Qingtian county in the southeastern Zhejiang province.
Hong Kong has arranged four charter flights to bring back 533 of its residents from the Chinese province of Hubei, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, about a month after countries around the world began evacuating their citizens.