World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people throughout the world Tuesday to stop stockpiling masks and other protective gear, saying they are needed by health workers who are fighting the coronavirus.
"We are concerned that countries' abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse," Tedros said during his daily briefing on the virus.
One day after declaring the world is "in uncharted territory" and that the accelerated spread of the virus in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan is the world's greatest threat, Tedros said, "shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients."
Tedros explained that both the coronavirus and the common seasonal flu cause respiratory problems and are spread the same way, but that the coronavirus does not spread as efficiently.
Tedros also said that COVID-19 causes more severe cases than the seasonal flu and that containment of the coronavirus is possible, unlike the seasonal flu.
As the virus continues to spread globally, there is growing optimism in China, where the number of new infections dropped to the lowest level in several weeks and thousands of recovered patients began to be released from hospitals.
G-7 to use policy tools
Earlier Tuesday, finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies said they will use policy to support the global economy that is showing signs of weakening due to the coronavirus, which has spread to at least 70 countries.
The ministers said in a statement after a meeting by teleconference they are "closely monitoring" the virus's "impact on markets and economic conditions" and that they have committed to "use all appropriate policy tools" to support economic growth.
The ministers, however, did not disclose specific measures to combat the virus amid rising expectations for them to do so.
'War' against COVID-19
The G-7 talks come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in sought funding in his country to help with medical supplies and to aid small businesses that have been hit by a downturn as people stay home.
South Korea has been one of the hardest-hit nations outside of China, reporting its latest figures Tuesday of nearly 5,000 total cases.
"The entire country has entered a war against an infectious disease," Moon said.
In Iran, another center from which the virus has spread to other countries as people traveled, World Health Organization experts arrived to help local health workers deal with the outbreak. Britain, France and Germany also pledged to send supplies to Iran.
China has seen its number of cases slow, reporting 125 new ones Tuesday, one of its lowest figures in the past two months.
The slowdown in China has come as cases elsewhere surged.
The United States reported four more deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, raising its total to six with about 100 overall cases.
Worldwide, the virus has infected 90,000 people and killed 3,100.
Millions of Japanese schoolchildren are being held out of class for four weeks; contaminated Israelis were forced to vote in Monday's national election at special polling places; and thousands of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Louvre in Paris, the world's most popular art museum.
In Germany, it's common for people to greet each other with handshakes. But when German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed up for a meeting with migrant groups, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rebuffed her outstretched hand.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris warned that the global economy could shrink for the first three months of the year for the first time since the 2008 recession.
"Global economic prospects remain subdued and very uncertain,'' the agency said.
OECD lowered its 2020 global growth forecast by half a percentage point to 2.4%, which would be the weakest advance since the height of the downturn in 2008.
U.S. manufacturing slowed again in February, the Institute for Supply Management said, as the global supply chain was impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
In the United States, President Donald Trump and his coronavirus task force met at the White House with executives of major drug companies about the possibility of advancing work on the development of a vaccine for coronavirus. The drug industry has said that such a cure is up to 18 months away.
Trump claimed credit for limiting the effects of coronavirus in the U.S.
"I was criticized by the Democrats when I closed the Country down to China many weeks ahead of what almost everyone recommended," he said. "Saved many lives. Dems were working the Impeachment Hoax. They didn't have a clue! Now they are fear mongering. Be calm & vigilant!"
On Wednesday, top U.S. officials are to meet with airline and cruise ship executives about their plight with the spread of coronavirus cutting discretionary travel.
Italy has been the hardest-hit nation in Europe and saw its number of cases continue to surge to more than 2,500 on Tuesday.
The WHO says the majority of the coronavirus patients are adults with symptoms that include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
The organization says 80% of victims experience mild illness; 14% experience severe disease; and 5% of those infected become critically ill. The WHO says those who experience the most severe cases are people older than age 60 and who have other health problems.