Africa’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic got a boost last week when Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donated a consignment of medical equipment from the Jak Ma and Ali Baba foundations.
The donations, which have been delivered to countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria and a few other African countries, included over 1.5 million laboratory diagnostic test kits and over 100 tons of infection prevention and control commodities.
Ma had announced the donation of a total of 1.1 million testing kits, six million masks, and 60,000 protective suits and face shields to help the continent in its fight against the new coronavirus two weeks ago which was widely applauded by the different governments on the continent.
And when the consignments did arrive, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Government of Ethiopia received the donations on behalf of Africa and have since despatched same through Ethiopian Airlines.
But the recent news from the Netherlands and Spain that they were recalling thousands of face masks imported from China should raise concern on the continent about the efficacy of medical consignments coming from the Asian giant.
Spain’s order came from Shenzen Bioeasy Biotechnology, a company the Chinese embassy in Madrid said on Twitter has not been officially licenced by the country’s authorities to sell medical products.
It should be noted that the Dutch and Spanish medical consignments were not a donation from the Jack Ma Foundation but a purchase from a company in China.
On Saturday, the Netherlands recalled hundreds of thousands of face masks imported from China after they were found to be defective, the health ministry announced.
Dutch authorities received 1.3 million face masks on March 21 and distributed some of them to health care providers battling against the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
But the nations health ministry “received a 777 that, upon inspection, the quality of the items did not meet the required standards,” it said in a statement to the media.
“A second test also proved that the face masks did not meet the required quality standards. It has now been decided to stop the use of this entire shipment. The masks had a KN95 certification indicating that they should filter above 95% of particles. According to state broadcaster NOS, the recall concerns 600,000 masks. Dutch authorities have however assured that “new shipments will receive extra standard testing.”
Much as it is important to applaud the kind and noble gesture of the tech billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, it is equally important that the donated items be made to go through quality check in order not to put the lives of health care workers at risk as the world struggles to contain the pandemic.
As of March 29, Africa has recorded 4,351 cases in 46 countries on the continent. South Africa has the most confirmed cases of over 1,000 while Nigeria, the largest country on the continent has confirmed 97 cases and one death.