May 21, 2020 / 7:42 AM / in 6 days

U.S. flies coronavirus aid to Russia where cases are climbing

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force plane delivered a first batch of medical aid including 50 ventilators to Russia on Thursday to help it cope with a rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

FILE PHOTO: Russia's Emergencies Ministry members wearing protective gear spray disinfectant while sanitizing the Leningradsky railway station amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia’s case tally, the world’s second highest, rose to 317,554 on Thursday after 8,849 new infections were reported, while the death toll climbed past the 3,000 mark after 127 people died in the previous 24 hours.

Only the United States has more confirmed infections. At 3,099, Russia’s death toll is much lower than many European countries however, something that has sparked debate about the methods it uses to count fatalities.

Russia cites a huge testing programme, which it says has seen over 7.8 million people tested, as the reason for its large number of reported cases, and says many involve Russians without symptoms of the virus.

Government officials also say there are signs that the outbreak is beginning to stabilise and that daily increases in new cases have become smaller in recent days.

U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said the 50 U.S.-manufactured ventilators were the first tranche of a $5.6 million humanitarian aid delivery to Russia. Another 150 ventilators would be delivered next week, he said.

Moscow sent medical supplies to the United States last month.

Even though relations between Washington and Moscow remain at post-Cold War lows, the presidents of the two countries have spoken by phone several times in recent months to discuss the pandemic, oil and arms control.

Russia’s government has ordered thousands of Russian-made ventilators, but suffered a setback when the model of ventilator it wanted was reported to have caused fatal fires in two Russian hospitals this month.

The same ventilator type was part of the batch of medical supplies Russia sent to the United States.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Anton Kolodyazhnyy; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Nick Macfie

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