The country has no face masks factory and is getting 800,000 of them from South Africa.
“We received 400,000 from South Africa (on Monday) and will receive as many” on Wednesday, Civil Protection Department director Luigi D’Angelo said in a telephone interview.
D’Angelo also said the supplies are being dropped at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. It will then be distributed across Italy, which has the highest confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Europe by far.
The country has more than 2,500 cases with 79 deaths since February 22.
D’Angelo said Italy needed “eight million surgical masks” for coronavirus positive patients and those who have been in contact with them.
Italy needs 10 million masks to fight COVID-19: official
Italy will also need “several million FFP2 and FFP3 masks to be used by health operators who are in direct contact with patients,” the civil protection agency chief said.
The white FFP2 and FFP3 masks offer much more protection than regular surgical masks.
D’Angelo also stressed out that masks should not be worn for more than six hours.
He said some hospitals were “running out of supplies,” adding that Italy’s worst affected region, Lombardy, was using up 200,000 masks a day.
Lombardy has recorded 55 deaths and 1,520 cases in all, officials said Tuesday.
Italy has also approached other mask-manufacturing countries, including Romania, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, D’Angelo said.
The civil protection service recommends home quarantine for people with slight symptoms or those without any but who have been in contact with infected patients.
But “this requires having your own bedroom and bathroom,” he stressed.
His agency has already set up military-style barracks near Rome and Turin, and will set up more near Milan to help quarantine people, he said.
Originally reported by Agence France-Presse