China’s richest man Jack Ma has announced he was donating medical supplies to all African nations to combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Jack Ma promised to send 100,000 face masks, 20,000 test kits and 1,000 medical use protective suits to each of Africa’s 55 nations.
According to the United Nations, Africa has 54 countries, excluding Western Sahara. The African Union recognizes 55 countries on the continent, including Western Sahara.
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The 55-year-old founder of e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba is providing the goods through Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation.
The two organizations will immediately start working with medical institutions in Africa to provide online training material for COVID-19 clinical treatment, Mr Ma said in a statement.
The donations will be flown to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and distributed to the rest of Africa from there .
“The crisis is proving to be more difficult and longer lasting than any of us had expected,” Mr. Ma said in a statement.
“We must make every effort to get prepared. The past two months show us that if we take it very seriously and are proactive, we are more than capable of containing the virus.
“Now it is as if we were all living in the same forest on fire. As members of the global community, it would be irresponsible of us to sit on the fence, panic, ignore facts or fail to act.
“We need to take actions now!’
Mr. Ma’s timely donation comes as the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 26 countries in Africa and infected over 400 people, according to the latest tally by virus tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins.
The situation has evolved quickly over the past week alone, and with several African nations promising to test more people, the picture may get darker and darker.
The virus has spread from northern Africa to the South and from East Africa to the West.
On Tuesday morning, there were 166 cases in Egypt, 62 in South Africa, 60 in Algeria, 26 in Senegal, 24 in Tunisia and 15 in Burkina Faso.
There were also 7 confirmed cases in Rwanda, 6 in Ghana, 5 in Ethiopia, 5 in Cameroon and 5 in Cote D’Ivoire. There were 3 cases in Nigeria and 3 in Kenya.
There was one confirmed case each in Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Somalia, Benin, Republic of the Congo, Togo, Central African Republic, Eswatini, Sudan, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea.
Apart from Africa, Ma announced last week he wound send medical relief to the United States.
The novel coronavirus evolution in Africa is similar to the situation in South East Asia.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization called on member states in South-East Asia region to urgently scale-up aggressive measures to combat COVID-19, as confirmed cases crossed 480, and the disease claimed eight lives.
“The situation is evolving rapidly. We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Eight of the 11 countries of WHO South-East Asia Region have confirmed cases of COVID-19. While Thailand has 177 confirmed cases, Indonesia 134, India 125, Sri Lanka 19, Maldives 13, Bangladesh 5, Nepal and Bhutan one each. These numbers are increasing quickly.
“More clusters of virus transmission are being confirmed. While this is an indication of an alert and effective surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more aggressive and whole of society efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We clearly need to do more, and urgently,” the Regional Director said.