Vatican responds to coronavirus outbreak by giving China hundreds of thousands of masks

The Vatican has sent hundreds of thousands of protective masks to China amid the coronavirus outbreak that has killed hundreds and sent Chinese officials scrambling to contain the illness.

The Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican has sent up to 700,000 masks to China beginning last month.

"The masks are destined to the provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang and Fujian," the press office told the CNS. "It is a joint initiative of the Office of Papal Charities and the Chinese Church in Italy, in collaboration with the Vatican pharmacy."


Some of the masks were sent to Hubei, the province that has become the epicenter of the coronavirus, the Vatican News reported. More than 420 people have died from the illness and over 20,000 people have been sickened in China as of Monday.

Chinese officials have responded by issuing widespread quarantines, quickly building hospitals and enacting travel restrictions. The United States has confirmed 11 coronavirus cases.

Last week, some pharmacies across the U.S. reportedly sold out of masks as the coronavirus was in the midst of spreading beyond China's borders.

Nearly 200 Americans were evacuated from Wuhan, the city where the virus began, last week. Evacuees are subject to a 14-day quarantine where they will be monitored for symptoms.


U.S. officials last week declared a public health emergency and said some travelers would be temporarily banned from entering the country.