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UPDATE 1-World faces shortage of coronavirus protective equipment, says WHO

Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The world is facing a chronic shortage of gowns, masks, gloves and other protective equipment in the fight against a spreading coronavirus epidemic, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.

The U.N. agency has been sending testing kits, masks, gloves, respirators and gowns to every region, Tedros told the WHO Executive Board in Geneva.

"However the world is facing a chronic shortage of personnel protective equipment, as you might imagine.

"This afternoon I will be speaking to the pandemic supply chain network to identify the bottlenecks and find solutions and push (for) fairness in distribution of equipment," he said.

As of 6 a.m. Geneva time (0500 GMT) there were 31,211 confirmed coronavirus cases in China and 637 deaths, as well as 270 cases in 24 other countries with 1 death, Tedros said.

"For the last two days there had been fewer reported infections in China, which is good news, but we caution against reading too much into that. The numbers could go up again," he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Nick Macfie; editing by John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood)