A first planeload of protective and medical equipment donated to Africa by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to help it fight the coronavirus arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday.
So far, the continent of 1.3 billion people has registered only 1,100 cases – less than 0.3% of the world’s total – spread across 41 countries. There have been 37 deaths. But there are fears that relatively poor health infrastructure means Africa will not cope if the virus becomes established.
“The flight carried 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of protective face shields,” Ma’s foundation said in a statement. “The faster we move, the earlier we can help.”
It said the supplies would be distributed across Africa, going first to countries that were particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that distribution would start on Monday.
Health Minister Lia Tadesse said testing for the virus was one of the most important tools for controlling the outbreak.
For several days, governments across the continent have been imposing tough measures to restrict travel and close public spaces. The World Health Organization is planning to help countries set up pop-up hospitals that could be equipped with oxygen and ventilators.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 190 million people, just three weeks ago announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa. Now with 36 confirmed cases and 1 death, it stopped all incoming international flights on Saturday and Closed down all schools and has discouraged all form of public gathering.