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Turkey sends medical equipment to help U.S. fight virus

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has dispatched a planeload of personal protective equipment to support the United States as it grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

A Turkish military cargo carrying the medical equipment took off from an air base near the capital Ankara on Tuesday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. It was scheduled to land at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington later in the day.

A top official said Turkey is donating 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N95 masks and 500 face shields.

Turkey has sent similar medical equipment aid to a total of 55 countries — including Britain, Italy and Spain — in an apparent attempt to improve its global standing by positioning itself as a provider of humanitarian aid in times of crisis.

“We pledge to help our friends and allies in need to the best of our ability and stand in solidarity with nations around the world at this difficult time,” said Fahrettin Altun, the presidential communications director.

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, issued a statement thanking Ankara for the donation.

“During times of crisis, like the worldwide effort to combat COVID-19, close coordination among like-minded allies and partners is key to developing a swift and effective response. None of us can do this alone,” he said.

Satterfield said the equipment would be “received and managed” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines announced that it is further extending its suspension of international and domestic flights due to the coronavirus pandemic until May 28.

The announcement came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country could begin to ease some restrictions after a religious holiday at the end of May.

Turkey has banned travel to and from 31 of the country’s most-populated provinces, where it has also declared weekend lockdowns. It has also imposed partial curfews for citizens aged over 65 and under 20.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 92 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total death toll in the country to 2,992. He also announced 2,392 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to 114,653.