A cargo flight containing more than 6 million medical items arrived Sunday in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The supplies from Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, will be distributed to African countries in need of supplies to battle the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
An Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight from Guangzhou, China arrived with 5.4 million face masks, 1.08 million testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields, according to Ethiopian officials and the Jack Ma Foundation.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week pledged to distribute the supplies to other countries in Africa. Ma has sent similar shipments of medical supplies to countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.
The virus has been slow to reach Africa but has now spread to at least 42 of the continent’s 54 countries, with more than 1,100 cases confirmed. In response many African countries are imposing restrictions.
Rwanda and Tunisia have announced lockdowns, ordering people to stay at home except for essential reasons.
Kenya has banned public gatherings but has permitted normal church services to continue as long as hand sanitizing or washing facilities are provided to worshipers.
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 22 cases, it stopped all incoming international flights on Saturday.
Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways, two of Africa’s largest airlines, announced sweeping cancellations of international flights. South Africa has stopped allowing foreigners to disembark from incoming international flights.
In South Africa, normally bustling shopping malls in Johannesburg, Cape Town and other urban centres have few shoppers, many wearing face masks.
Although most people only experience minor flu-like symptoms from the coronavirus and recover within a few weeks, the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those who do not show symptoms.
It can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, in some patients, particularly those with underlying health problems. This poses a threat to many African health systems, which experts warn do not have sufficient resources to cope with a large influx of patients needing isolation and intensive care.