Russia gets more U.S. ventilators as coronavirus cases climb

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A planeload of 150 ventilators arrived in Russia from the United States on Thursday, Washington’s embassy in Moscow said, to help fight the novel coronavirus in further medical aid collaboration between the two politically-estranged nations.

Russia’s case tally, the world’s third highest, rose to 441,108 on Thursday after 8,831 new infections were reported, and 169 more people died in the previous 24 hours.

At 5,384, Russia’s death toll is lower than many other countries, sparking debate over the way it counts fatalities.

Russia cites a huge testing programme - it says more than 11.7 million tests have been conducted - as the reason for its large number of reported cases, and says many positive cases involve Russians without symptoms of the virus.

On Wednesday, official data showed Russia’s second biggest city of St. Petersburg recorded a death rate last month 32% higher than the previous year, suggesting more people could be dying of COVID-19 than are being reported.

Thursday’s aid from the United States, which has fractious geopolitical relations with Russia on a wide range of issues, came after a U.S. Air Force plane delivered a first batch of medical supplies including 50 ventilators on May 21.

U.S. Embassy Spokeswoman Rebecca Ross described the latest assistance as a “humanitarian aid delivery from the American people to the people of Russia”.

The 200 ventilators delivered in total were part of a donation worth $5.6 million, she said.

“These U.S.-made ventilators are the highest quality in the world, manufactured to meet local technical specifications, complete with Russian language instructions and ready to use,” Ross wrote on Twitter.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Alexander Marrow; Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Cawthorne