ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – 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 around 1,100 cases spread across 43 countries, with 39 deaths. While that is a tiny fraction of the more than 305,000 people infected and more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, there are concerns that Africa’s relatively poor health infrastructure means it 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.