/Reuters/ – A U.S. military transport aircraft was expected to deliver a first batch of medical aid to Russia on Thursday, including 50 ventilators, to help Moscow cope with a rising number of novel coronavirus cases and deaths.
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 last 24 hours.
Only the United States has more confirmed cases of the novel infection. At 3,099, Russia’s 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.
The United States has said it will send 200 U.S.-manufactured medical ventilators to Russia after U.S. President Donald Trump offered the assistance in response to a request from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow sent medical supplies itself 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)