The government of Italy has made a direct appeal to Defense Secretary Mark Esper for US military aid in combating coronavirus, according to a US defense official.
Specifically, Italy’s defense minister has asked Esper for critical medical equipment like masks and ventilators as Italy has nearly 60,000 confirmed cases and has had more than 5,000 deaths. The Italian government has requested that US military personnel stationed in Italy assist Italian authorities by providing medical personnel and field hospitals in support of Italian troops already responding to the crisis there.
Esper recently made the Defense Department’s stockpile of masks and ventilators available to civilian hospitals in the US to help respond to the pandemic. The military has activated units capable of constructing field hospitals to help relieve the burden on civilian hospitals.
The Italian plea for assistance from its NATO ally comes as the Russian military has made a very public effort to provide the Italians with assistance, using military aircraft to fly in medical personnel and equipment.