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Russian, Italian military officials discuss joint fight against COVID-19

MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. Russian military officials have held the first round of talks in Rome with their Italian colleagues on Russia’s cooperation in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the Russian Defense Ministry informed on Monday.

"On March 23, 2020, the first round of talks on the possibilities of involving Russian military specialists and equipment that arrived in the Italian Republic to provide aid in the fight against the novel coronavirus took place <…> in Rome," the Russian Defense Ministry informed.

The Russian delegation involved representatives of the Defense Ministry’s task force headed by deputy chief of the Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Protection Troops of the Russian Armed Forces Major General Sergei Kikotei.

On the outcomes of the session, the Italian military will determine the areas of the country where Russian military specialists and equipment will be deployed to.

Under the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Defense Ministry set up an air group consisting of nine Il-76 jets that transported virologists, epidemiologists and the necessary equipment to Italy. According to the ministry, the group includes specialists who directly took part in fighting outbreaks of African swine fever, as well as developing vaccines against Ebola and plague. The planes also delivered mobile stations for aerosol disinfection of transport and territories and medical equipment. Additional planes are set to arrive in the country soon.

According to the data available on March 22, 59,318 people in Italy are reported to have contracted the coronavirus, almost 4,000 more than the day before. Moreover, 651 people died in 24 hours, a slight decrease in comparison to March 21 when the most deaths were announced since the epidemic that claimed 5,476 lives in Italy broke out.

A pneumonia outbreak caused by the COVID-19 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV) was reported in China’s city of Wuhan, a large trade and industrial center with a population of 12 million, in late December 2019. Cases of the new coronavirus have also been reported in more than 150 countries and territories, among them Russia, which by now has documented 438 cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the novel coronavirus cases across the globe have exceeded 320,000, with more than 14,000 deaths. WHO has officially described the situation with the novel coronavirus as a pandemic.