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US appeals for foreign aid as coronavirus crisis deepens

A US patient is transferred into an ambulance at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, on March 7, 2020. PHOTOGRAPHER: KAREN DUCEY/GETTY IMAGES

The United States has launched a desperate diplomatic campaign to fill major shortcomings in the country’s medical system amid a rising death toll from the coronavirus.

The State Department instructed its top diplomats to urge Eastern Europe and Eurasia’s governments to ramp up exports of life-saving medical equipment to the United States in order to fill the shortcomings as the corona crisis is deepening.

Trump’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, David Hale asked all officials at embassies across Europe and Eurasia to report on what foreign countries would be able to sell “critical medical supplies and equipment” to the United States, Foreign Policy said.

“Depending on critical needs, the United States could seek to purchase many of these items in the hundreds of millions with purchases of higher end equipment such as ventilators in the hundreds of thousands,” David Hale said in an email. He said the request applies to host countries “minus Moscow.”

The email came from an official at the Office of US Assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia—an office that under normal circumstances coordinates delivering US aid and assistance to countries in Eurasia and Europe.

The request undercut claims by President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly insisted that the United States can handle demands for tests and medical equipment on its own, FP noted.

 “We have so many companies making so many products—every product that you mentioned, plus ventilators and everything else. We have car companies—without having to use the act (Defense Production Act to). If I don’t have to use—specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many—they’ve just stepped up,” Trump said on March 21.

There are over 42,600 coronavirus cases and at least 559 deaths in the US as of early Tuesday morning.

US healthcare workers say they desperately grappling with shortages of medical equipment to protect themselves while working at hospitals to take care of patients suffering from the highly contagious coronavirus infection.

Top US health officials have warned that as the coronavirus, COVID-19 spreads across the country, hospitals and first responders are already facing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment needed to safely manage the pandemic.

The State Department’s appeal for foreign aid underscores the severity of the deepening coronavirus health crisis in the United States, as US officials brace for a worst-case scenario based on how the pandemic has ravaged overburdened health care systems in countries like China and Italy.

The appeal was made as European governments are themselves struggling to cope with one of the worst pandemics in recent history.

The White House is seeking to deflect criticism of its own sluggish response to the COVID-19 crisis by putting too much emphasis on the virus’s likely origins in China. Trump and other officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have taken to referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus”.

China, which have contained the virus in the country, has begun to send shipments of vital medical supplies to countries hit by the pandemic, including Iran and Italy.

The State Department’s directive comes as the United States faces the prospect of a severe economic recession in the election year, with Trump facing a hard choice of lifting health restrictions to help the economy, and risking more lives or maintaining health restrictions and risking US jobs.


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