WHO warns of oxygen shortage as COVID cases exceed 10 million

GENEVA (Reuters) – The world is facing a shortage of oxygen concentrators as the number of global cases of coronavirus infection approaches the 10 million mark, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 28, 2020 REUTERS / Denis Balibouse / File Photo

“Many countries are now experiencing difficulties obtaining oxygen concentrators,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. “Demand is currently outstripping supply.”

The new coronavirus has affected 9.3 million people and has killed more than 480,000 so far and is increasing in approximately 1 million cases per week. This has brought oxygen demand to 88,000 large cylinders per day, or 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen, Tedros said.

The sudden increase has created a shortage of oxygen concentrators necessary to support the breathing of COVID-19 patients suffering from respiratory distress.

The health agency purchased 14,000 oxygen concentrators from the manufacturers and plans to ship them to 120 countries in the coming weeks, Tedros said. Another 170,000 hubs, valued at about $ 100 million, will be potentially available in the next six months.

Meanwhile, the head of the WHO emergency program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said the pandemic in many Latin American countries was still intense as deaths in the region exceeded 100,000 this week. Many countries had experienced 25-50% increases in cases in the past week, he said.

“I would consider that the situation in the Americas as a whole continues to evolve, has not yet peaked and is likely to result in a sustained number of cases and continued deaths,” he said.

The United States has criticized WHO’s handling of the pandemic, calling the agency “China-focused.” President Donald Trump demanded immediate review and reform and has vowed to resign from the Geneva-based body.

European governments are also working with the United States on a review plan.

While Tedros promised accountability and a post-pandemic review, Ryan said Wednesday that the agency was holding internal talks about its actions, including what it learned about controlling the virus.

Reports by Emma Farge and John Miller; Written by Kevin Liffey; Gareth Jones and Angus MacSwan Edition

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