Germany bans export of medical protection gear due to coronavirus

BERLIN, March 4 (Reuters) - Germany has banned the export of medical protection gear to avoid supply shortages of masks, gloves and suits as doctors and authorities are racing to contain the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, officials said on Wednesday.

The decision was taken by the government’s emergency task force on the coronavirus epidemic, with the export ban coming into force immediately, an economy ministry spokesman said.

The health ministry said that the export ban applied to all sorts of medical protection gear including breathing masks, medical gloves and protective suits. “Exceptions are only possible under strict conditions,” the health ministry added.

The federal government also decided that Berlin would henceforth buy medical protection gear in order to provide hospitals and doctors’ surgeries across the country with the necessary equipment, the health ministry said.

Germany has now reported 240 cases of the virus, which emerged in China late last year and is spreading around the world. It has killed nearly 3,200 people, though Germany has not reported a fatal case yet. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber Editing by Paul Carrel)