From Jack Ma to Safaricom, coronavirus unites all peoples


At least 27 African states have so far been affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus with nearly 350 people diagnosed with the virus across the continent.

As the virus continues on its upward trajectory in Africa, concerted efforts are seeking to arrest its spread with support coming from different entities. The latest announcement of support is by Alibaba Founder Jack Ma who has pledged to donate medical supplies including masks, testing kits and medical use protective suits and face shields to all the 54 African countries.

In the statement posted on his Twitter account, Ma said that Africa can be one step ahead of the coronavirus which has already been classified a pandemic by the WHO.

Read: Coronavirus shakes economies, world forced to change perspective on Africa

Through his Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, Ma has already donated medical supplies to other countries hardest hit by the virus, including Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Italy, Spain and Belgium.

National disaster

South Africa has declared Covid-19 a national disaster which allows the government to access a special fund and commence regulations to combat the viral disease.

On Sunday, March 15, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country has not experienced such a severe situation which led to his ordering school closures, travel restrictions, and bans on large gatherings to curb the virus’ spread.

More than 164,000 people are now infected by the virus globally with at least 6,500 deaths. On Monday, March 16, Somalia’s health ministry said the country had registered its first case of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on all countries to scale up their testing programmes to slow the coronavirus pandemic’s spread.

“We have a simple message for all countries – test, test, test. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.

Without testing, cases could not be isolated and the chain of infection would not be broken, he added.

To help Africa cope with the increasing cases, Ma said: “We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. We can take precautions now and get prepared ahead of time, as Africa can benefit from the experience and lessons from other countries that were earlier hit hard by the virus.”

To make things easier in Kenya, the country’s largest telco has announced that sending money to loved ones will be free for the next 90 days. This came after a meeting with government officials with the company saying in a statement on Monday that it was agreed that all person-to-person transactions below Sh1,000 shall be free.

See: Intra-regional trade could create 2 million new jobs for East Africa

Kenyans will also be able to transact up to Ksh300,000 up from Ksh140,000 and hold up to Ksh300,000 in their digital wallets.

“Safaricom is working with the government to provide a call centre and an integrating toll-free line 719 which has been set up by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus to support Kenyans in understanding how to prevent and manage cases,” added the statement.

“We have also interconnected other networks to ensure that their subscribers can access the call centre. All calls to 719 are free,” added the statement.

The Kenyan government has also directed that all media outlets broadcast all the messages meant to enlighten people regarding prevention and control of the virus.

Read: Economic Impact of Non-Communicable Diseases in East Africa

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