China is running short of protective medical equipment because of the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing said today, amid claims that hospitals are having to make masks and scrubs out of bin bags.
Medical workers need ‘urgent supplies’ of masks, protective suits and safety goggles, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday.
Virus fears have prompted many in the country of 1.4billion to stock up on face masks, but China’s factories can only produce 20million of them a day at full capacity.
Images have circulated online which appear to show doctors wearing makeshift protective gear made out of bin bags and fabric at one hospital in Wuhan.
The Union Hospital of Wuhan says the pictures are ‘fake’ but many Chinese social media users have cast doubt on the claim.
In addition, several cities and provinces including Wuhan have made it compulsory to wear masks in public in a bid to contain the virus.
This image appears to show a doctor wearing a protective suit made out of a bin bag at a hospital in China, where officials say medical supplies are running low
This doctor appears to be wearing a makeshift mask – although the Union Hospital of Wuhan claims that such pictures are ‘fake’
‘What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles,’ the foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a press briefing.
Beijing said countries including South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Hungary have donated medical supplies.
Tian Yulong of the industry ministry said earlier Monday that authorities were taking steps to bring in masks from Europe, Japan and the US.
Factories are returning to production after the Lunar New Year lull but are still only operating at ’60 to 70 per cent capacity,’ Yulong said.
Hubei, the province of more than 50million people at the centre of the outbreak, has made it compulsory to wear masks in public.
China’s most populous province Guangdong has also done so along with Sichuan, Jiangxi, Liaoning and the city of Nanjing, with a combined population of more than 300million.
The death toll from coronavirus soared past 360 on Monday, exceeding the 349 fatalities in mainland China from the 2002-03 SARS outbreak.
Workers wear protective masks at a workshop in China’s Jiangxi province yesterday, amid fears of medical supply shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak
Funeral workers in protective suits disinfect themselves after handling the body of a coronavirus victim in Wuhan yesterday
The number of infections in China also jumped signficantly on Monday, passing 17,200.
Amid mounting pressure, the government has been racing to build two new hospitals in extraordinarily quick time.
The first of those, a 1,000-bed facility, was due to open on Monday, just 10 days after construction began.
About 1,400 military medics will treat patients at the hospital, dubbed ‘Fire God Mountain’, according to state media.
However with the death toll surging in Wuhan and other areas of Hubei, it was not immediately clear what overall impact the hospitals would have.
In a worrying sign of a further spread, the eastern industrial city of Wenzhou was yesterday placed under a similar lockdown to Wuhan.
Roads in Wenzhou, 500 miles to the east of Wuhan, were closed and its nine million people were ordered to stay indoors.
Only one resident per household in Wenzhou is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, authorities announced.
Medics wearing protective clothing carry a patient to a hospital in Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak
The emergence of the virus coincided with the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions travel across the country in planes, trains and buses for family reunions.
The holiday – originally scheduled to end last Friday – was extended by three days to give authorities more time to deal with the crisis.
But some major cities – including Shanghai – extended the holiday again, and many schools and universities delayed the start of new terms.
In a bid to stagger the return to work, many companies offered staff the option to work from home or defer travel, or simply closed.
The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States – have all confirmed cases of the virus.
They will discuss a joint response, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday.
The US, Australia, New Zealand and Israel have banned foreign nationals from visiting if they have been in China recently, and they have also warned their own citizens against travelling there.
Mongolia, Russia and Nepal have closed their land borders.