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Indian doctors don raincoats and helmets amid equipment shortages

 Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in India are forcing some doctors to use raincoats and motorbike helmets while fighting the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Monday said India was trying to procure bulk quantities of PPE, domestically and from South Korea and China to meet the shortages.

But more than a dozen doctors on the front lines of treating the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected 1,251 people in India and killed 32, told Reuters they were concerned that without proper masks and coveralls, they could become carriers.

According to one projection, more than 100,000 people could be infected by mid-May, putting India’s underfunded health system and scarce doctors under severe strain.

In the eastern city of Kolkata, junior doctors at the major coronavirus treatment facility – Beleghata Infectious Disease Hospital – were given plastic raincoats to examine patients last week, according to two doctors there and photographs reviewed by Reuters.

“We won’t work at the cost of our lives,” said one of the doctors, who declined to be named because he feared retaliation from the authorities.

The hospital’s medical superintendent in-charge, Dr. Asis Manna, declined to comment.

In northern Haryana state near New Delhi, Dr. Sandeep Garg of ESI Hospital said he had been using a motorbike helmet because he didn’t have any N95 masks.

“I put on a helmet – it has a visor in front so it covers my face, adding another layer over the surgical mask,” Garg said.