A planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, has arrived in Italy from China to help the European country deal with its growing coronavirus crisis.
The coronavirus outbreak began in China late last year, but has since swept the globe.
Italy is now the worst-affected nation in the world after China, since the contagion came to light there on February 21.
The outbreak risks overwhelming Italian hospitals, and some key supplies are running low.
In contrast to China, Italy’s partners in the European Union earlier this month refused Rome’s requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens.
A batch of medical supplies have arrived in Belgium; 1.8 million masks and 100,000 reagents are on the way. The supplies will then be delivered to Italy & Spain and to the frontline. pic.twitter.com/AZJLz4G6A6
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 11, 2020
A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived late on Thursday with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Red Cross Society of China.
“In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important,” said the head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca.
“We have a desperate need for these masks right now. We need respirators that the Red Cross will donate to the government. This is for sure a really important donation for our country,” Rocca said.
In a separate development, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, who is the founder of the Alibaba Group and among the world’s richest people, offered to donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks to the United States, which on Friday declared a national emergency over the outbreak.
In a statement on Twitter, Jack Ma said: “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”
“We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!”
Over the past weeks, Ma’s organisations have helped provide similar supplies to virus-hit countries such as Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.
“The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country,” Ma said. “We can’t beat this virus unless we eliminate boundaries to resources and share our know-how and hard-earned lessons.”