The German interior ministry said Wednesday that it has banned the export of medical protection gear to ensure health workers in the country have enough to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
The ministry said in a statement that it had published an order outlawing "the export abroad of medical protective gear (masks, gloves, protective suits, etc.)."
Exceptions can be made in some cases, for instance as part of "international aid missions," it added.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased to 240 on Wednesday, up from 196 on Tuesday afternoon, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said. Fifteen of Germany's 16 federal states have now reported cases of the novel coronavirus, with the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia being most affected, according to the RKI. Germany has not reported a fatal case of the virus, known as COVID-19, which emerged in the Chinese metropolis Wuhan late last year and is quickly spreading around the world.
Meanwhile, global health officials warned that stocks of protective gear were rapidly dwindling.
The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern that masks, goggles and other protective equipment used by health workers were running out due to "rising demand, hoarding and misuse."
"We can't stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, noting prices of masks have surged sixfold and the cost of ventilators has tripled.
Tedros said the WHO had shipped more than half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 27 countries, but warned that "supplies are rapidly depleting."