US agency seeks Pentagon help

April 03, 2020

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WASHINGTON: A US federal agency has asked the Pentagon to provide 100,000 body bags for potential deaths due to Covid-19 reached 236,331 by Thursday afternoon.

The death toll also climbed to 5,789, adding almost 700 deaths and 22,000 new infections in the last 12 hours. Various US agencies monitoring the outbreak recorded 26,473 addition cases and 1,049 deaths on Wednesday.

The White House warned earlier this week that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans are projected to die in the coronavirus outbreak this year, even with another 30 days of a stringent lockdown.

On Thursday, a US military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported the Pentagon has been asked to provide 100,000 military-style body bags for potential civilian use as deaths continued to soar.

The report said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested the body bags, known as Human Remains Pouches, through an interagency group that directed it to the Defence Department. The Pentagon maintains a stockpile of 50,000 bags and will have to acquire more from its suppliers to meet the demand. The green nylon, 94-inch by 38-inch body bags are typically distributed to war zones.

The US Defence Logistics Agency’s Troop Support unit, which manages the Pentagon’s stockpile, “has been in contact with the current contractor to assess its manufacturing capabilities”, Stars and Stripes reported.

Recently, the Pentagon also deployed two hospital ships to New York and Los Angeles to help alleviate pressure on regional hospitals overburdened by the pandemic.

On Thursday, Major General Lenny J Richoux, who heads the Pentagon’s manpower division, said the military was ready to “support the whole-of-government effort against the Covid-19 pandemic”. He said the Pentagon was strictly following a 60-day freeze on troop movements and no troops were being deployed in or outside the country.

On Wednesday, the US State Department confirmed that Washington was buying medical supplies from Moscow, as America’s stockpiles were emptying rapidly.

A Russian plane with coronavirus medical gear landed in the US on Wednesday afternoon, hours after President Trump spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The supplies include ventilators and other protection equipment.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020