As deaths from the coronavirus continue to spiral, the Church in China has appealed to the universal Church for financial and material help to assist the millions affected.
An average of 150 people have died in each of the past five days from the COVID-19 virus, taking the toll to 1,770 with more than 70,000 confirmed infections in China, the National Health Commission said on Feb. 17.
“Given the continuing severity of the epidemic, ensuring adequate medical supplies across the country remains a top priority,” China-based Jinde Charities, the government-recognized Catholic aid forum, said in a statement.
In Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported in December, millions of people are trapped due to unprecedented mandatory quarantine efforts.
Confirmed cases have been rising in other areas and the situation remains severe, according to a statement from Father John Baptist Zhang, who heads operations at Jinde Charities.
“We need brothers and sisters from the universal Church to join us in the fight against the plague of the human race by making use of the universal strength of the Catholic Church and by donating funds or medical supplies,” he said.
A top priority has been to ensure adequate protective clothing and masks for hospitals in Wuhan and across the country, he said.
Jinde Charities is registered in Shijiazhuang, a traditional Catholic stronghold in northern China. It is active in several Chinese dioceses, including Xi’an in Shaanxi province, and runs nursing homes, orphanages and AIDS clinics.
The Catholic Church’s official social service agency, Caritas International, has no operations in China. Even so, Father Zhang has asked overseas benefactors to get in touch with Caritas units in their respective countries and offer help.
As of Feb. 12, Jinde Charities had received donations of 1.22 million euros (US$1.32). “Almost all the donations were used to buy emergency masks, protective clothing, goggles, disinfectors and disinfectants to support medical treatment,” Father Zhang said.
He said Jinde Charities, as a registered agency, enjoys the rights of public fund-raising and can accept overseas donations but needs to follow procedures.
The Vatican sent 700,000 face masks to China early this month, according to Father Vincenzo Han Duo, vice-rector of the Pontifical Urban University in the Vatican, who coordinated the effort.
The Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, located in the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, has arranged to send 3,400 protective masks, according to Agenzia Fides, a Vatican news service.