China which is dealing with deadly novel coronavirus outbreak said on Monday that it "urgently needs" medical masks to tackle contagion. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing that the country is in dire need of protective medical equipment to tackle the deadly virus.
"What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles," she said.
Mounting fears owing to the coronavirus has impelled people to stock up on single-use surgical masks as the frontline healthcare workers at the centre of the outbreak have reported medical equipment shortfalls.
China's factories at full capacity can only manufacture nearly 20 million medical masks a day, according to the (China's) Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Countries comprising Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan and South Korea have donated medical supplies, said the foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, Tian Yulong, chief engineer, MIIT said earlier on Monday that government authorities were ensuring measures to get masks from Japan, Europe and the US. He added that the demand and supply for masks have remained in "tight equilibrium" in China as factories returned to production after the Chinese New Year lull. He further stated that Chinese factories are now running at "between 60 and 70% capacity."
Besides Hubei, the region of more than 50 million population which is at the centre of coronavirus outbreak, other provinces and cities across China have made it mandatory to wear masks in public.
These regions comprise Guangdong (China's most populated province), Jiangxi, Liaoning and the city of Nanjing, with an overall population of over 300 million.
Coronavirus claimed more than 360 lives in China as on Monday with over 14,000 people already affected in the country. Meanwhile, Kerala health minister KK Shailaja has confirmed the third case of novel coronavirus in the state. The state government has announced high alert in Kerala.
The first two cases were also detected from Kerala where the government has quarantined nearly 2,000 people and kept them under observation at different hospitals, homes and quarantine facilities.
Kerala, which is thickly populated, has been on high alert as a large number of students from the state are studying in the University of Wuhan.
Coronavirus has spread to nearly 25 countries so far, including India and the US.
Meanwhile, the government brought back 323 more Indians and seven Maldivians by air from the Chinese city. The total number of evacuees is 654 so far.
The central government also temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese citizens travelling to India as well as foreigners dwelling in the neighbouring country. The government also issued a fresh travel advisory to Indian citizens saying anyone with travel history to China since January 15 can be quarantined.