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Wuhan doctors face shortage of protective gear

BEIJING: Doctors on the frontline of China's coronavirus epidemic are facing a daunting task: treat an ever-growing number of infected patients and risk getting infected themselves due to a shortage of masks and other protective equipment.

Many doctors have had to see patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing the same equipment when they should be changed regularly.

Some even wear diapers to avoid having to take off the equipment and make it last longer, a health official said.

One doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan said he and at least 16 colleagues were showing symptoms similar to the new virus, including lung infections and coughing.

"As doctors, we do not want to work while being a source of infection," he told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.

But "right now, there is no one to replace you", the doctor explained, adding that all medical staff without a fever are expected to work. "What would happen if there was no one working on the frontline?"

Some 44 per cent of the 42,600 cases nationwide - and the majority of more than 1,100 deaths - have been in Wuhan.

The deputy mayor of Wuhan said on Friday the city faced a daily shortage of 56,000 N95 masks and 41,000 protective suits.

WEAR DIAPERS

Medical staff in protective suits will "wear diapers, reduce how much water they drink, and reduce how many times they use the bathroom," said a top official, Jiao Yahui, at China's National Health Commission.

Some of them wear the same protective suit for six or even nine hours, when they should not be worn for more than four hours in a quarantined ward, she said last week.

"Of course, we don't advocate this method, but medical staff really have no alternative," she admitted. - AFP

WORLD