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WHO warns shortages leave health workers 'dangerously ill-equipped' to fight COVID-19

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, N95 respirators have tripled in cost, and protective gowns cost twice as much, the WHO said.

Canada now has 33 cases after 2 new confirmations in Ontario and 4 in B.C.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the price of surgical masks has increased six-fold. 1:28

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday warned of a global shortage and price-gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40 per cent as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounted.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, said Tuesday that shortages are leaving health workers "dangerously ill-equipped" to care for patients with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, N95 respirators have tripled in cost, and protective gowns cost twice as much, the WHO said.

It estimates health-care workers each month will need 89 million masks, 76 million gloves and 1.6 million pairs of goggles.

There are almost 91,000 cases globally of which more than 80,000 are in China. China's death toll was 2,946, with more than 166 fatalities elsewhere.

Read on for a sense of what's happening with COVID-19 in Canada, the United States and some of the hardest-hit communities around the world.

Here's what's happening in Canada

Canada has reported 33 cases of COVID-19 — 20 in Ontario, 12 in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

Ontario announced two more cases on Tuesday. Health officials say those patients are in self isolation. One can be linked to travel to Egypt, the other to travel to Iran.

In B.C., health officials confirmed four news cases on Tuesday, all of whom recently travelled from Iran. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in the morning confirmed one case and later in the afternoon announced three more. 

All of the new patients are now in self-isolation at home, and their close contacts are being monitored, Henry said. None of the B.C. cases has become severely ill.

WATCH | Trudeau on COVID-19 and help for the provinces:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alludes to the possibility of helping provinces with the costs of preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak. 0:33

On Monday, health officials announced that travellers landing in Canada from Iran would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said the measure, which is similar to one already in place for travellers coming from Hubei, China, was put in place after new cases here were linked back to travel in Iran.

There are no plans for travel bans, Tam said.

"Viruses know no borders, and we have to balance our public health measures knowing that they are never completely perfect."

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which is assessing risk as the outbreak develops, said the risk in Canada from COVID-19 is low.

Here's what's happening in the U.S.

Washington state reported additional coronavirus deaths Tuesday, bringing the total to nine.

All of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States so far have been in the Seattle area.

On its website, the state Department of Health reported eight deaths in King County and one in Snohomish County.

The state is now reporting 27 confirmed cases.

WATCH | Officials scramble to contain coronavirus in Seattle area:ki

Officials are scrambling to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, where the cases have no known link to travel. 2:02

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington on Sunday said they had evidence COVID-19 may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected. If true, that could mean that there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area.

The number of cases in the U.S. — including travellers who are believed to have contracted COVID-19 abroad and those who were repatriated from areas like Wuhan, China — is over 100.

Here's what's happening in East Asia

South Korea reported 516 new cases on Wednesday, a day after a record spike in cases prompted the country's president to declare a "war" on COVID-19.

The new cases bring South Korea's total to 5,328, with 34 deaths, the worst epidemic of any nation outside China.

On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in apologized for shortages of face masks and promised support for virus-hit small businesses in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

South Korean soldiers in protective gear sanitize shacks at Guryong village in Seoul on Tuesday. President Moon Jae-in has ordered additional hospital beds and more face masks to be made available as the number of cases rose by 600 in the worst epidemic of any nation outside China. (Heo Ran/Reuters)

In Japan, it's not just schools that closed as the government tries to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to public broadcaster NHK, a major mall operator is shortening hours, and a gym chain is shuttering almost all of its outlets.

Questions continued to build about how the virus might affect the Olympics.

The country's Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said Tuesday the country was "making the utmost effort" to proceed with the games' planned opening on July 24 in Tokyo. But she told parliament the country's contract with the International Olympic Committee only specifies that the games be held during the year 2020, and that they could be delayed to later in the year if necessary.

Watch: 2020 Tokyo Olympics in jeopardy over COVID-19 outbreak

CBC News Network's Suhana Meharchand spoke with Dr. Bob McCormack, Chief Medical Officer for Team Canada since 2004. They discuss the possibility the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak globally. 7:33

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,943 as of the end of Monday, up by 31 from the previous day.

Mainland China had 125 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday, down from 202 cases a day earlier and the lowest since the authority started publishing nationwide data in January.

Here's what's happening in the Middle East

Iran's supreme leader put the Islamic Republic on war footing Tuesday against the coronavirus by ordering its armed forces to assist health officials in combating the outbreak — among the deadliest outside of China — that authorities say has killed 77 people.

"Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

After downplaying the coronavirus as recently as last week, Iranian authorities said Tuesday they had plans to potentially mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus.

WATCH | Iran struggling with medical equipment shortages, says WHO:

The World Health Organization says Iran lacks supplies such as ventilators and respirators needed to treat patients with coronavirus. 1:01

There are now over 2,530 cases of the coronavirus across the Mideast. Of those outside Iran in the region, most link back to the Islamic Republic.

"Things tend to look worse before they get better," Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO emergency program director, said of the recent increase in cases in Iran, which have come from several cities.

On Tuesday, the Middle East's largest airline, Emirates, said it had to reduce or ground flights due to the new virus. Because of the slowdown, the government-owned carrier has asked its employees to take paid and even unpaid leave for up to a month at a time. Emirates operates out of Dubai, the world's busiest for international travel.

Here's what's happening in Europe

Italian officials said the number of deaths of coronavirus patients in Italy has risen sharply in a 24-hour period to 79 overall. They say nearly all the deaths have occurred in elderly people or patients with serious chronic health problems, such as kidney failure, heart disease or cancer.

Officials said Tuesday that the number of virus cases in Italy rose by nearly 500 to 2,502. Most of the cases and deaths have occurred in Italy's northern region of Lombardy.

France on Tuesday reported a total of 204 cases, up 13 from the previous day, and a total of four deaths. The latest was a 92-year-old man in Brittany, where there has been a cluster of COVID-19 illnesses, and thousands of children are being kept home from school.

Medical workers wearing protective masks check patients at a medical checkpoint at the entrance of the Spedali Civili hospital in Brescia, Italy, on Tuesday. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

The news of the latest death came as The Associated Press reported that France's president said the government is requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks.

A man in the Spanish region of Valencia died from coronavirus, marking the country's first death from the outbreak, a local health official said Tuesday.

Tests carried out post-mortem showed the man, who died Feb. 13, was killed by the virus, regional health chief Ana Barcelo told a news conference.

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant to sanitize a passenger bus in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Mykola Tys/Associated Press)

In total, around 150 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Spain, while some 100 health workers in the Basque region have been isolated in their homes after coming into contact with people carrying the virus.

Portugal, Ukraine, Latvia, Andorra and Gibraltar all confirmed their first cases on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Ireland confirmed its second case, a person who had recently travelled to Italy; Sweden's number of confirmed cases doubled to 30; and Germany's number of cases rose to 188, up by 31 from the previous day.

Here's what's happening in South America

Argentina Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia on Tuesday confirmed the country's first case.

The person arrived in Argentina on Sunday after a two-week trip that included northern Italy, another health ministry official said.

Chile also confirmed its first case on Tuesday.

Travelers wearing masks arrive at the Arturo Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)

Here's what's happening in Africa

Senegal's health ministry said a second person who flew to the West African country from France last week tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases in sub-Saharan Africa to three. 

The latest patient, an 80-year-old man from the Sarcelles suburb of Paris, arrived in Senegal on Feb. 29 and presented himself at a hospital in the capital Dakar on Monday.

Senegal confirmed its first case on Monday, and another case of coronavirus was confirmed in Nigeria last week.

A worker screens passengers arriving at Entebbe Airport in Entebbe, Uganda, on Tuesday. (Sumy Sadurni/AFP via Getty Images)

Algeria confirmed three new cases of coronavirus, bringing to eight the total number of people tested positive for the virus, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The eight cases include seven Algerians from the same family and an Italian man, the ministry said in a statement.

Neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia confirmed their first case.

With files from Kathleen Harris, CBC News and The Associated Press

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