By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Sunday praised China's commitment to contain the coronavirus outbreak and said he was praying for all those affected.
“May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, - he said - comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic."
China has allocated nearly 9 billion dollars to help contain the virus and over the weekend, President Xi Jinping admitted the country is facing a grave situation.
China’s National Health Commission confirmed over 2,700 cases, is investigating almost 6,000 suspected cases, and tracking over 32,000 close contacts with infected patients. Officials are warning that people who are carrying the virus but not showing any symptoms may be contagious, which could complicate early detection and isolation efforts.
In its latest bid to stop people from travelling and spreading the coronavirus, Beijing extended the Lunar New Year Holiday, the busiest time of the year for travel, and encouraged people to stay at home.
The city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, is on total lockdown with more than a dozen neighboring cities facing severe transport restrictions.
Anyone who has traveled to Wuhan or other affected areas recently is being asked to register and quarantine themselves.
Outside China, the nations that have reported cases of infection are Thailand, Hong Kong, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Macau, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, France, South Korea, Vietnam, Canada and Nepal.
The head of the World Health Organisation is in Beijing on Monday for a special meeting with officials to discuss how to contain the virus.
WHO officials ruled last week that the outbreak did not yet constitute a global health emergency.