March 3 (UPI) -- The hoarding and misuse of medical supplies are compromising the ability to provide healthcare workers worldwide with protection against COVID-19, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency's projections suggest global outbreak response will require 95 million surgical masks, 76 million medical gloves and 1.6 protective goggles for healthcare workers.
To meet this demand, he said, manufacturers of personal protective equipment will need to increase output by as much as 40 percent as soon as possible.
The ability of several countries to provide healthcare workers with supplies has been compromised by "hoarding and misuse," Ghebreyesus said.
"Prices of surgical masks have increased six-fold, while prices for N95 face masks have tripled," he said. "WHO is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure there are adequate supplies."
WHO has shipped 500,000 units of PPE to 27 countries, including Iran, where there has been a dramatic rise in new cases in recent days due to increased surveillance and testing, said Mike Ryan, head of WHO's emergencies program.
Globally, the WHO reports there are 90,893 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 3,110 deaths linked with the virus. In all, 12 countries have confirmed their first cases of the disease over the past 24 hours.
In China, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the outbreak appears to be slowing down. The WHO reported Tuesday there were 129 new cases of the disease reported in China over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily total since January 20.
To compare, there were 1,848 new cases of the virus confirmed in countries outside China over the same period, in 48 countries.Notably, though, 80 percent of these new cases are in three countries: Iran, Italy and South Korea.
WHO officials were hesitant to declare that the outbreak has peaked in China, but they believe the reported decline is "real," based on their analysis of the data provided by the government there, and that it demonstrates that the disease can be contained.
WHO officials still see no need to declare a global pandemic, given that 122 member countries have yet to report a single COVID-19 cases.