Jack Ma, the wealthiest person in China, had already pledged two million protective masks to European countries. A first shipment of test kits, medical supplies and 500,000 masks intended for Italy, which has been hard-hit by the virus, arrived at Liege Airport in Belgium late Friday (local time)

By Ian Horswill


Posted on March 16, 2020

Alibaba co-founder and former executive chairman Jack Ma donated 500,000 coronavirus COVID-19 testing kits and one million protective face masks to the US through his charity the Jack Ma Foundation.

The Chinese billionaire, who set up the charity in 2014, has also helped Europe, which has been labelled the new epicentre of the pandemic.

The wealthiest person in China has already pledged two million protective masks to European countries. A first shipment of test kits, medical supplies and 500,000 masks intended for Italy, which has been hard-hit by the virus, arrived at Liege Airport in Belgium late Friday (local time).

Over the past few weeks the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation joined forces to source and donate items to fight coronavirus in Japan, South Korea, Italy and Spain.

“Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus. We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!,” Jack Ma said in a statement on Twitter.

“The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country.

“We can’t beat this virus unless we eliminate boundaries to resources and share our know-how and hard-earned lessons.”

In a public health debacle for the US, very few tests of people with the coronavirus have been taken. Only around 15,000 people have been tested so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The big players that normally sell things like the (regular flu) test kits or rapid strep test kits to hospitals, they haven’t had assays authorised yet by FDA,” said Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious disease programs at the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

In what may be a breakthrough, the US Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new test from pharmaceutical company Roche.

“We’re very excited to share the news that overnight we got emergency use authorization from the FDA,” said Paul Brown, a senior executive for Roche.

He said the company’s new test is simpler and the results are more easily obtained.

Roche had already begun production while it awaited FDA approval.

The US added the UK and Republic of Ireland to its European travel ban and long queues, with people shoulder-to-shoulder, which goes against the advice to prevent coronavirus, are taking place at 20 airports in the US as new enhanced medical screening is taking place for people returning from Europe.

US President Donald Trump, who famously said the coronavirus was part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency, tweeted on Sunday that the US is “doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports”.

“Pardon the interruptions and delays, we are moving as quickly as possible, but it is very important that we be vigilant and careful. We must get it right. Safety first!”