May 5, 2020 / 8:10 PM / 22 days ago

U.S. sends Mexico planeload of ventilators to fight coronavirus

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The U.S. government has sent Mexico a plane loaded with ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, part of an agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday.

Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spoke by telephone in mid-April to discuss a prior request from Mexico for the United States to sell it thousands of ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients.

According to Lopez Obrador, Trump had promised to sell Mexico 1,000 ventilators with the option to buy more.

A first batch of 211 ventilators made by Hamilton Medical, purchased for between $16,000 and $24,000 apiece, landed at the Toluca airport near Mexico City on Tuesday.

The medical equipment arrived from Reno, Nevada, with a stopover in Memphis, Tennessee.

“For now, there will be at least six flights,” but there may be more flights in June, Ebrard said.

The aid was the result of “a direct request from president to the president,” Ebrard said, which meant the ventilators were cheaper than buying them on the market.

Lopez Obrador reiterated at his daily news conference on Tuesday that he planned to visit the United States in July to thank Trump for his solidarity and celebrate the implementation of a revamped North American free trade agreement.

Mexico’s purchase of medical equipment comes as the number of infections has risen sharply, and authorities look to avoid overwhelming the under-resourced public health system.

Lopez Obrador also said he wanted to travel to China to thank President Xi Jinping for shipping Mexico masks and protective goggles.

Mexico has reported 24,905 cases of coronavirus and 2,271 deaths.

Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Cooney

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