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Exposed GPs to get coronavirus mask

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Federal Government will dip into its “massive stockpile” and release protective coronavirus masks to doctors.

The Federal Government will dip into its "massive stockpile" and release protective coronavirus masks to GPs around Australia in the next 48 hours, the head of the Royal Australian College of GPs says.

Many GPs had been anxious about having no masks to wear while treating patients presenting with potentially deadly coronavirus symptoms, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Harry Nespolon told 

After publicly highlighting the mask shortage, Dr Nespolon said Health Minister Greg Hunt's office had made contact mid-morning to confirm the government would give GPs a tranche of the special N95 masks it has stockpiled.

Passengers wearing protective masks arrive at Sydney International Airport on January 23. Australia is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus, as a flight from the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak arrives in Sydney.

"We've got it from the horse's mouth," Dr Nespolon confirmed.

"We don't need a lot of masks, maybe 10 per practice."

He said GPs in Australian metropolitan cities operating direct flights from China should be prioritised. Dr Nespolon said GPs had requested masks for reception employees and other non-medical staff, who will face contact with people carrying a potential fatal illness.

"The government has a responsibility to give GPs the necessary equipment if they expect doctors to be involved in this potential pandemic," he said.

"Once again GPs are being asked to do something at the very last minute without the equipment to do it."

Dr Nespolon said it was possible Australian GPs could need hazmat suits in the coming months, depending on the potential spread of coronavirus in Australia.

There are currently five confirmed cases of the outbreak in Australia, four in New South Wales, and one in Victoria.

How to protect yourself from coronavirus

The most recent case is a 21-year-old woman from the University of New South Wales, who arrived in Sydney on the final plane allowed in from Wuhan, China last week.

READ:  Australia’s Coronavirus Restrictions Explained

In recent months, there has been a run on all models of face masks across the country because of the bushfire crisis. Shelves in hardware stores and chemists have been stripped bare, while there are also reports of antiseptic hand sanitizers running dry.

"The government has a massive store of N95 masks," Dr Nespolon said, estimating the stockpile may hold up to 12 million masks.

He said masks were "almost unobtainable" after coronavirus had doubled down on the wildfire crisis.

The Health Department was unable to confirm how many masks were held by government at the time of publication.

In early January, the federal government confirmed it had provided and reserved almost 3.5 million P2 masks to firefighters, ADF personnel, police and state governments facing the bushfire crisis.

Meanwhile, reports in China suggest hazmat suit productions can't keep up with growing demand.

Health workers in Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, are ploughing through 100,000 hazmat suits a day, with production lines maxed out at 30,000 daily units.

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Source: 9News

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