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China sends medical supplies, experts to help Italy battle coronavirus


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 organized 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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