Let ethics keep fear and greed in check
The World Health Organization states the problem this way:
Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a six-fold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.
Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.
WHO has so far shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 47 countries,* but supplies are rapidly depleting.
Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.
The government of Singapore puts it as above, except that we edited out one thing. The Singaporean authorities assure the population that if people use masks only as indicated, the government has a big enough stockpile to meet the needs. The Panamanian government has made no such assurance, but let us hope that they can or that they are working on it and are well on the way to being able to say that. Graphic by the Singaporean Health Ministry.
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