Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu, 99, was quarantined after he developed symptoms while a senior priest has a confirmed infection

Bo Fan, Hong Kong 
February 4, 2020

A picture of medical masks with the Vatican emblem is displayed on the social media page of Father Vincenzo Han Duo, vice-rector of Pontifical Urban University, who coordinated the donation of 700,000 masks to China to help fight a virus outbreak.

The Vatican has dispatched some 700,000 medical masks to China, where the fast-spreading deadly coronavirus has killed more than 400 people and infected thousands including some church people.

Latest figures show that 20,626 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified. So far, there have been 426 deaths, all but one in China, since the virus was first reported on Dec. 12 in Wuhan province, central China.

The Vatican’s mask donation comes amid reports that medical shops and facilities have run out of masks to cope with demand from China’s population of 1.38 billion people.

Vatican Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, almoner of the Office of Papal Charities, took the lead in organizing the masks. He expressed hope that the measure would help China tide over the outbreak.

Since Jan. 27, the Vatican has sent some 700,000 masks, according to Father Vincenzo Han Duo, vice-rector of the Pontifical Urban University in the Vatican, who coordinated the effort.

Father Han in a social media message said the Vatican and local Chinese Christians paid for the masks. On the first day, they managed to collect more than 100,000 masks.

The masks will be sent to central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and the badly affected regions of Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

Airlines including China Southern Airlines are providing free shipment, media reports said.

“I hope the supplies will reach where they are needed as soon as possible so that people who are suffering the disease can feel the concern from the Holy See,” Father Han said in his post.

Some provisional governments in China have made wearing masks mandatory.

Church people infected

Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang developed fever on Feb. 2 but it has not yet been confirmed if he has the infection. The 99-year old bishop is isolated and under quarantine at Nanyang Second General Hospital.

A Catholic member of Nanyang Diocese, on condition of anonymity, told UCA News on Feb. 3 that the first confirmed infection was of diocesan Father Ma Yuxing.

Father Ma, 62, had gone to Wuhan on Jan. 11 and returned to Nanyang the next day. The 62-year-old priest was diagnosed on Jan. 24 and is now isolated at Nanyang Central Hospital.

The aged bishop is suspected to have contracted the infection from his personal assistant and nephew, who was confirmed with the infection after he came into contact with Father Ma.

The bishop’s assistant developed symptoms on Jan. 23 and the infection was confirmed on Jan. 29. He is being treated in isolation at Nanyang Central Hospital.

The infection, which has no known medical cure, can become fatal for people with poorer immunity such as the young and the elderly, experts say.

Bishop Li Shan of Beijing has asked his priests and nuns to create awareness about the epidemic among people. He also wants priests, nuns and monks returning to Beijing from outside the city to follow self-isolation for 14 days. They are asked to avoid public transport.

Rather than stirring up fear and paranoia, the Church in China has called for calm while suspending many pastoral services.

At least 10 Chinese cities have been placed on lockdown. Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang and other cities have announced severe travel restrictions, affecting around 60 million people, media reports said.

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.

< back                 top ^