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Reliance on Chinese protective gear soars in pandemic's wake

Nation's share tops 80% of global imports despite efforts to break dependence

Workers make masks at a plant in Shanghai.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON/GENEVA -- The world's reliance on Chinese personal protective equipment has grown sharply as the country boosts exports to meet demand, even as nations seek to increase domestic production and diversify sources.

China supplied 83% of the four major types of PPE that medical staff wear to prevent infections -- masks, gowns, protective clothing and glasses -- in terms of import value in May, according to the latest United Nations trade statistics. The figure grew sharply from 59% in January. In addition to stronger demand as COVID-19 cases grew, shipping costs rose as the gear was increasingly transported by air.

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