ADDIS ABEBA – Chinese businessman Jack Ma said he will donate upto 20,000 Coronavirus test kits and 100,000 masks to each African nations during his discussion with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed today.
The continent is seeing a steady spread of the coronavirus across the continent, with six new countries confirming cases on Saturday.
That means 25 of Africa’s 54 countries have COVID-19 patients, with the Republic of Congo being the latest country reporting a case, late Saturday.
According to WHO, demand for personal protective equipment like gloves, masks and hand sanitizer means that there are now global shortages.
Asia’s richest man told Abiy that his intention to ship testing kits and masks to African nations in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Jack Ma’s charitable foundation and his company’s foundation, the Alibaba Foundation, have also sourced and donated similar supplies to other countries being hit by the virus, including U.S. Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.
In Africa, Abiy said ensuring preparedness for COVID19 “is critical” to mitigate possible health disasters.
Abiy and Jack Ma also agreed “on ways of working together to halt the spread of COVID19 on the continent”, the Prime Miniser said in a twitted message.
Abiy expressed his “great appreciation” to Jack Ma for partnering with Ethiopia to distribute up to 20, 000 coronavirus testing kits per country and over 100,000 masks for each African country as well as guideline books developed recently on how to treat patients with the virus.
“Material support coupled with enhanced knowledge is key to COVID19 containment,” the PM said.
African governments and health officials are racing to try to contain the spread of the new virus on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
If the disease spreads locally within the continent, health officials warn that several countries with fragile health systems could see higher mortality rates.
“With COVID-19 officially declared a pandemic, all countries in Africa must act,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response,” she said. “Cases may still be low in Africa and we can keep it that way with robust all-of-government actions to fight the new coronavirus.”
Apart from South Africa and Algeria – which have clusters of transmission linked to imported cases – the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African region are sporadic importations from European countries, mainly Italy, France, Germany and Spain.