GENEVA

An unregulated market for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic is putting lives at risk and regulation is needed, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.

The protective equipment consists of medical masks, respirators, gloves, gowns, and eye protection to protect healthcare workers or any other persons to get infected.

The international humanitarian organization called for regulation to ensure PPE is distributed equitably and transparently during the virus outbreak.

“At the moment, the market for personal protective equipment is dominated by a lack of transparency about what is being produced and where, its quality, the amounts in stocks and how they are allocated,” said Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF’s director general, in a statement.

“Assistance to countries facing shortages has been mainly delivered through piecemeal and one-shot actions that are producing uncertainty, chaos, and inequality in the supply chain at a time when healthcare systems everywhere need predictability and accountability.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, competition in the market for medical supplies has reached unprecedented levels, and strong protectionist measures – notably bans on exports – have also been put in place in many countries, said the MSF.

The result is substantial price rises, and widespread shortages, particularly for the PPE needed to protect healthcare workers.

Besides hampering efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the shortage also affects treatment for patients suffering from measles, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.

In view of the global PPE shortage, strategies that can facilitate its optimal availability include minimizing the need for PPE in healthcare settings, ensuring its rational and appropriate use, and coordinating supply chain management mechanisms, according to the World Health Organization.

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