NEW TAIPEI CITY — The Catholic priest, Father Giovanni Rizzi of the Camillians religious order, has been well known in Taiwan for his decades of work helping to set up hospitals on the island nation.

But in recent days, Rizzi humbly asked for some help in return: for contributions to purchase face masks for hospitals in his hometown of Milan, Italy, one of the worst-hit epicenters of COVID-19. Taiwanese officials and individual citizens alike were quick to respond, donating upwards of $4 million, the United Daily News reported.

An 80-year-old produce vendor contributed a whole week of her income.

Rizzi had made his plea through the platform of Camillian Saint Mary's Hospital in Luodong, Taiwan after learning that more than 50 of his fellow priests and doctors working in the Order's hospitals around Milan had died since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Taiwan's former minister of health and welfare, Mr. Zhi-Liang Yang, was among the first to heed the priest's call, donating $6,700. Thousands of other people followed suit, including an 80-year-old produce vendor who contributed a whole week of her modest income. The Taiwanese government, which has been praised for containing the toll on the island, announced last week that it is also sending masks directly to Italy, as well as to Spain and France, which are all struggling to contain the outbreak.

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