March 13, 2020 / 1:48 PM / a month ago

China sends medical supplies, experts to help Italy battle coronavirus

An Italian Red Cross member watches as a box of a consignment of medical supplies, including respirators and masks donated by a Chinese team of experts, is taken out of a Chinese chartered plane after arriving at Rome's Fiumicino airport, to help Italy cope with a coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy, March 12, 2020 in this still image taken from video March 13, 2020. Aeroporti di Roma (AdR)/Handout via REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) - A planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, has arrived in Italy from China to help it 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, with 1,016 dead and 15,113 confirmed cases since the contagion came to light there on Feb. 21.

A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived late on Thursday with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Chinese Red Cross.

“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.

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.

Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Gareth Jones

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