China issues appeal for masks, suits and goggles
Hello, this is Michael Safi, I’ll be updating you with the latest developments in this story over the next hours.
We’re getting a little more now from the press conference (given online, not in person) by the Chinese foreign ministry. The government has been at pains to emphasise that it has the tools to control the spread of this coronavirus outbreak, but this morning did concede it needs help – in the form of protective medical equipment.
“What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits and safety goggles,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing on Monday morning.
China’s factories can produce 20 million masks a day, but panic over the virus has prompted people in the country of 1.4 billion to stock up on them, while frontline medical personnel have reported equipment shortages.
Agence France-Presse provides this context:
At full capacity, China’s factories are only able to produce around 20m masks a day, according to the ministry of industry.The foreign ministry said countries including South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Hungary had donated medical supplies.Tian Yulong, of the industry ministry, said earlier on Monday that authorities were taking steps to bring in masks from Europe, Japan and the US, adding that supply and demand in China remained in “tight equilibrium” as factories returned to production after the lunar new year break.He said they were now operating at between 60% and 70% capacity.In addition to Hubei, the province of more than 50 million people at the centre of the outbreak, several other provinces and cities across China have made it compulsory to wear masks in public.These include Guangdong – China’s most populous province – plus Sichuan, Jiangxi, Liaoning and the city of Nanjing, with a combined population of more than 300 million.