The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a 40 per cent increase in PPE for healthcare workers.

Rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse is putting the lives of healthcare workers at risk from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, according to the WHO.

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,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“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.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.

Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.

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.

To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that the industry must increase manufacturing by 40 per cent.

“Governments should develop incentives for industry to ramp up production, and this includes easing restrictions on the export and distribution of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies,” official guidance states.

The health authority is also working with the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to boost production and secure allocations for critically affected and at-risk countries.