World Bank unveils $12 billion aid package to combat Coronavirus; WHO warns protective gear shortage


A medical staff checks information of a patient as patients infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus leave from Wuhan No.5 Hospital to Leishenshan Hospital, the newly-built hospital for the COVID-19 coronavirus patients, in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 3, 2020. - Across the world, 3,127 people have died from the new virus. More than 92,000 have been infected in 77 countries and territories, according to AFP's latest toll based on official sources at 1100 GMT on March 3. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT

As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, the World Bank unveiled a $12 billion aid package on Tuesday that will provide fast-track funds to help countries combat the outbreak. “The goal is to provide fast, effective action that responds to country needs,” World Bank President David Malpass told reporters. He said it is critical to “recognize the extra burden on poor countries” least equipped in the struggle to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a statement the bank said, the funds, some of which are targeted to the world’s poorest nations, can be used for medical equipment or health services and will include expertise and policy advice. The virus that was first detected in central China in December has killed more than 3,000 worldwide and infected over 90,000 people.

However, the World Health Organisation Director-General on Monday said the cases are now increasing more outside China than inside China.

On Tuesday, South Korea reported 516 new Covid-19 cases. Mainland China confirmed 119 new cases and 38 new deaths from the virus on 3 March. Nine people have died in Washington, and US Vice President Mike Pence announced new screening measures, including for all travellers to the US on direct flights from South Korea and Italy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the risk of the spread of coronavirus on Friday. Malpass said the money $8 billion of which is new will go to countries that request help. The bank has been in contact with many member nations, but he did not specify which are likely to be the first to receive aid.

The WHO has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse, is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

But 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.

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.