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Coronavirus: Turkey donates half a million masks to the US

Gowns and face shields also flown to the United States, as Ankara seeks to help heal soured alliance with Washington
Medical donation that includes masks and gowns are getting loaded into Turkish A-400M military aircraft in Ankara on Tuesday morning (Government handout)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey sent a plane full of medical aid, including surgical masks and gowns, to the United States on Tuesday in an effort to help Washington combat the coronavirus.

The shipment departed Ankara on a Turkish military plane in the early morning. The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the cargo contains half a million surgical masks, 40,000 gowns, hundreds of N95 masks and face shields.

A Turkish official told Middle East Eye that Turkey had initially agreed to provide the equipment with payment, but later on decided to give it as a donation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also issued a special permit to sell locally produced parts of ventilators to the American company Ford last week.

Sources say Turkey is trying to show solidarity with its Nato ally after many years of tensions over Syria and Palestine. Ankara is also seeking to maintain the positive relationship between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.

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Even though Washington has laid out plans to ease lockdown restrictions in the country, several states are still struggling to contain the pandemic. 

“It might be looking better for them, but they still wanted to obtain this equipment from us. So they need them,” the Turkish official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The coronavirus death toll in the United States has now surpassed 55,000, with over a million confirmed cases. More people have died of the virus in the United States than in any other country in the world. 

“We stand in solidarity with the United States, our Nato ally, against Covid-19,” Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s communications director, said on Twitter on Monday night.

Turkey medical aid
Turkish officials placed a quote belonging to 13th century sufi poet Rumi on the packages, reading: "After hopelessness, there is so much hope and after darkness, there is a brighter sun" (Handout)

The US embassy also released a statement on Tuesday, thanking the Turkish government for the help.

“I want to thank our Nato ally Turkey for today’s generous donation of medical supplies and other essential equipment,” said David Satterfield, the US ambassador to Turkey. “As this delivery indicates, the US-Turkey relationship is strong and one of our most important alliances.”

Even though Turkey itself has been hit hard by the virus, with death toll nearing 3,000 and some 112,000 people testing positive, comparatively it has managed the outbreak well. The country’s intensive care units were never overwhelmed and the shortages of food and basic supplies seen in shops across the world have not materialised. 

The Turkish government announced earlier this week that Ankara had sent aid and equipment to at least 57 countries fighting coronavirus, including the UK, Spain, Italy and Balkan countries.

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