President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The US has agreed to buy from Russia ventilators, medical supplies and other personal protection equipment needed to treat patients infected with COVID-19, a top official has said, as the country wrestles with the coronavirus pandemic that the White House has warned could kill up to two lakh people during the next fortnight.
The move to buy from Russia comes after a telephonic conversation between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on March 30. “As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to FEMA on April 1 in New York City.” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said on Wednesday.
Both the countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future, she said. “This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us,” she added.
“The countries of the G20 agreed last week to work together to defeat the coronavirus, and we are working closely with these countries and others to ensure that critically needed supplies get to those in need,” Ortagus said.
The United States is committed to the global fight against COVID-19, she said, adding that the US is a generous and reliable contributor to crisis response and humanitarian action across the world. “But we cannot do it alone,” Ortagus noted.
President Trump told reporters on Tuesday that the US was headed for a “very tough two weeks”, advising people to be prepared for the “hard days” ahead, as the country is at war with the deadly coronavirus pandemic that the White House projects could claim one to two lakh lives during the next fortnight.
Deborah Bix, a member of White House Task Force on coronavirus, based on a model from actual data from the ground, said the death toll in the US could be between 100,000 to 200,000, with the strict implementation of the existing mitigation measures including social distancing till April 30. Across the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of ventilators.
Some medical device makers have agreed to ramp up supplies. But because patients diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19 often require breathing support, there is widespread concern that these devices won’t be developed and shipped quickly enough.
A total of 932,605 COVID-19 cases have been reported across more than 175 countries and territories with 16,809 deaths reported so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The US has reported 213,372 COVID-19 cases, the highest in the world, and over 5,000 people have died due to the disease.