POPE FRANCIS has donated 700,000 medical masks to coronavirus-hit areas of China in an attempt to fight the disease.
The Vatican press office confirmed a report that appeared in the Chinese newspaper which said that since January 27, the Vatican had sent 600,000-700,000 protective masks to a number of Chinese provinces caught up in the coronavirus outbreak.
"The masks are destined to the provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang and Fujian," the press office said.
"It is a joint initiative of the Office of Papal Charities and the Chinese Church in Italy, in collaboration with the Vatican pharmacy."
Airline companies in China reportedly provided free shipment of the masks into the country, according to reports.
"I hope the supplies could reach where they are needed as soon as possible, so that people who are suffering the disease could feel the concern from the Holy See," said Chinese Father Vincenzo Han Duo, vice rector of Rome's Pontifical Urbanian College.
"The whole world is standing together to fight the virus," he added.
During his Sunday Angelus address on January 26, Pope Francis expressed condolences to the victims of the virus and his support for efforts to fight its spread.
"I wish to be close to and pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China," Francis said.
"May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic."