WHO said prices for some items were up to 20 times higher than normal, and Tedros told reporters the problem was being made worse by “inappropriate use” of masks by people who were neither sick nor medical staff.
“There are now depleted stockpiles and backlogs of four to six months. Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient to meet the needs of WHO and our partners,” he said, adding: “There is a moral issue here.”
After speaking to a supply chain group of producers and distributors on Friday, Tedros praised those companies that have promised to sell only to medical staff.
“There is limited stock of PPE and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most in the places that need it most,” he said, warning against “stockpiling of PPE in countries and areas where transmission is low”.
WHO earlier this week said it had started sending masks, gloves, respirators, protective isolation gowns and test kits to countries requiring assistance.
At least 31,000 have now been infected by the virus, which has killed more than 630 people.
“We have a common enemy which is dangerous and which can bring serious upheaval, social, political and economic. This is the time to fight it and in unison,” he said.