Hospitals in the German state of Saxony will take on at least six Italian coronavirus patients who are unable to receive treatment in their own country.

"The Italian government asked us a few days ago whether we could help by taking care of patients who are not being taken care of in Italy," state premier Michael Kretschmer said. 

Following consultation with doctors over hospital capacity in the eastern German state, Saxony has agreed to welcome six Italian patients to hospitals in the cities of Dresden and Leipzig, he added.

"In Italy they are now making an ethically very difficult decision ... choosing six people to be put in the airplane," said the state premier. 

Mr Kretschmer said that the treatment of Italian patients would be a chance for doctors in Saxony to learn about the novel coronavirus, and also a sign of solidarity. 

"This is a very important sign that we are also able to help others," he said.

German news agency DPA, meanwhile, reported without citing sources that a total of eight patients would be transported to Germany.

Italy has been the country worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 6,000 dying because of the virus.

With its health service has been stretched to breaking point, other countries such as Russia and the Czech Republic have also offered aid. 

Germany has registered more than 22,000 cases, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute for public health.

Saxony is one of the lesser affected of the country's 16 states, with only 658 cases so far. 

Last weekend, three other German states on the French border announced that they would take care of patients from the eastern region of France, which has also been badly hit by the outbreak.