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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Two Russian military aircraft carrying a team of virologists, health specialists and equipment have departed for Italy, the country the worst hit by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
According to Russian media the transport aircraft carrying military virologists, other doctors and supplies left Russian airspace on Sunday.
The Ministry of Defence in Moscow confirmed the equipment and specialists would arrive in at an Italian base to the southwest of Rome.
Russian support for Italy was pledged on Saturday following a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The deal was finalised later by the countries’ two defence ministers.
In total as many as nine IL-76 transport aircraft are expected to arrive in Italy, the country’s La Stampa newspaper reported. The mission will include eight mobile medical teams along with medical equipment and aerosol disinfection trucks.
Several countries have offered their support to Rome as the number of cases of the novel coronavirus, known as Covid-19, surges in the country. Italy has confirmed more than 53,000 coronavirus cases and over 4,800 deaths from the disease.
Chinese specialist doctors and medical equipment have arrived in Italy ready to help tackle the sharp spike in people with the disease, which has overwhelmed medical facilities.
The doctors bring with them first-hand experience of dealing with the coronavirus, having previously helped to tackle the original outbreak in China's Hubei province that killed more than 3,000 people. Tough quarantine measures have seen the rate of new cases in China dwindle, while in Europe the outbreak continues to spread.
In the face of the mounting death toll in Italy, Mr Conte went on live TV to announce that he was tightening the country's lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.
"We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War Two," Mr Conte told Italians during a midnight broadcast.
He cautioned there was "no alternative" than to impose further restrictions. Scientists have argued that avoiding even one infection means scores more are prevented down the line.
Updated: March 22, 2020 06:13 PM
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