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Turkey vows solidarity with US in fighting virus outbreak

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to stand in solidarity with the United States in its struggle against the coronavirus pandemic and as it recovers from the outbreak.

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump, Erdogan also said he was following “with appreciation” the American leader's efforts to control the outbreak.

The letter was sent Tuesday along with a planeload of personal protective equipment that Turkey donated to the U.S. It was made public on Wednesday.

Erdogan wrote: “I am very pleased to observe that, thanks to your measures, America has taken the first steps towards normalization by achieving a downward trend in the number of new cases.”

“You can be sure, as a reliable and strong partner of the U.S., we will continue to demonstrate solidarity in every way possible,” Erdogan wrote.

Turkey sent 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N-95 masks and 500 face shields. Turkey has sent similar medical equipment aid to a total of 55 countries — including Britain, Italy and Spain.

Erdogan and Trump have maintained a close personal relationship despite a series of differences between Ankara and Washington, including policy on Syria and Turkey's decision to purchase the S-400 Russian missile defense system that the U.S. says poses a threat to its F-35 stealth fighter jets and to NATO.

The U.S. removed Turkey from the fighter jet program and has threatened sanctions if the Russian system is deployed.

Meanwhile, Turkey announced 89 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as the number of daily fatalities continued to decrease.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also reported 2,936 new infections, bringing the total to 117,589. The total number of deaths now stands at 3,081.

However, Koca warned against a relaxation of measures that could lead to a “wave of a second peak.”

“We are seeing a declining trend but it is important that this is sustained,” Koca told reporters earlier.

The minister also told reporters after a meeting with the country’s scientific advisory council that Turkey has the lowest death rate from coronavirus among the European countries. He said the death rate among intensive care patients in the country has dropped from 58% at the start of the outbreak to 10%, while the rate for intubated patients dropped to 14% from the previous 74%.

At least 7,428 health workers out of some 100,000 medical personnel are infected with the virus, the minister said. He did not provide a figure for the number of health staff who have died of the virus.

Earlier, the country extended the closure of schools until May 31.

Turkey ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University, but experts believe the real toll is higher.

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