The United States has submitted a list of medical supplies they would like to purchase from Turkey, seeking Ankara’s help in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that has inflicted a major blow to the country’s already fragile health care system and depleted the Strategic National Stockpile.
The list submitted to the Turkish Embassy in Washington includes body bags, soap, masks, beds, gloves, respirators, goggles, mobile X-ray units, alcohol-based hand disinfectants, antiviral vaccines, morphine, antibiotics, medical kits, oxygen masks, shoe covers, medical tubes, laryngoscope sets, surgical masks, disposable medical gowns, mobile sphygmometers, sample carry cases and chloride, according to a report by the Hürriyet daily, citing Foreign Ministry and Industry and Technology Ministry records.
So far, Turkey has responded to the medical supply requests of 32 out of 93 countries and has sent aid to several countries including Italy, Spain and Iran.
The U.S. has become the epicenter of the pandemic with 435,160 confirmed cases of the virus and 14,797 deaths.
The request noted that the U.S. may buy the aforementioned products from Turkey in the case that the country has the surplus capacity or barter with necessary supplies.
U.S. hospitals have been inundated with COVID-19 patients, while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that the Strategic National Stockpile is running out of N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies vital to protect front-line medical workers.
The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.
HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10% will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.
For the last month, health care workers across the U.S. have taken to social media to illustrate the shortages by taking selfies wearing home-sewn masks on their faces and trash bags over their scrubs.
President Donald Trump has faulted the states for not better preparing for the pandemic and has said they should only be relying on the federal stockpile as a last resort.
The Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday that the Trump administration squandered nearly two months after the early January warnings that COVID-19 might ignite a global pandemic, waiting until mid-March to place bulk orders of N95 masks and other medical supplies needed to build up the stockpile. By then, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for help.
The stockpile was created in 1999 to prevent supply-chain disruptions for the predicted Y2K computer problems. It expanded after 9/11 to prepare for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. Congress provided money in 2006 to prepare for a potential influenza pandemic, though much of that stock was used during the H1N1 flu outbreak three years later.
Turkey on Wednesday delivered medical supplies to five Balkan countries to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. The country earlier also sent medical equipment to China. At least 26 countries also sought Turkish expertise and Turkey’s locally developed test kits, authorities have said.
Turkey already mobilized for the production of masks and other materials to help the health care workers and the needy. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday in a televised interview that the army’s factories and workshops producing textiles for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are mass-producing masks, protective suits and disinfectants. He said they boosted the capacity with additional machinery and they were currently able to produce up to 4 million surgical masks weekly. “We can also produce 110,000 protective suits weekly and 5,000 liters of disinfectant. Next week, we will increase our production capacity for surgical masks to 10 million weekly so we can also send them to our allies,” he said.
Turkey’s postal system will begin distributing medical face masks to citizens free of charge, following the government’s decision to mandate the wearing of face masks in public spaces as part of new measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Large corporations, including Ford Otosan, have announced that they will support Turkey’s efforts to produce masks and other gear necessary in coronavirus fight.
Turkish defense contractors are also being brought in to produce medical ventilators as part of the Turkish technological venture BIOSYS.