Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is shipping coronavirus test kits and masks to the U.S.


(CBS News) – Chinese billionaire Jack Ma recently joined Twitter and used the platform to make a major announcement about his response to the coronavirus. The co-founder of the online retail giant Alibaba said he is sending a shipment of coronavirus test kits and masks to the United States.

“The first shipment of masks and coronavirus test kits to the US is taking off from Shanghai. All the best to our friends in America,” Ma’s first tweet ever read. He included photos of pallets of cargo ready to be loaded onto a flight to the U.S.

The Jack Ma Foundation, which has used Twitter to post news in the past, shared more information about the donation. In a statement posted on the foundation’s Twitter, Ma said he, along with the Alibaba Foundation, has also been sending materials to combat COVID-19 in Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain. 

“Now, we have sourced and readied for shipment 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to be donated to the United States,” the statement reads. 

Ma’s donation comes as health workers across the U.S. continue to report difficulties getting ahold of the COVID-19 tests they need, and as many voice concerns about the availability of protective gear for front-line health care workers.

Due to a shortage of the N95-type masks known to shield against the virus, the CDC has lowered the standard for clinicians, suggesting normal surgical masks can be worn instead.

“This will become a tragedy, lots of nurses and doctors will die, and make this country look incompetent,” one U.S. doctor told CBS News in an email.

In his statement, Ma said the outbreak presents “a huge challenge to all humankind in a globalized world,” and that he has drawn from his own country’s experience that quick and accurate testing as well as protective equipment for medical personnel are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

“We need to combat the virus working hand-in-hand,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Jack Ma Foundation signed a funding agreement with the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia. The foundation said it would contribute $3.2 million Australian dollars towards the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.

The foundation posted photos and videos of shipment of supplies being sent to the U.S., as well as second shipment of donations from for epidemic prevention in Europe arriving at the Liege Airport in Belgium, “hours ahead of schedule,” they said. 

According to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there have been more than 81,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China, where the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan. There have been 3,217 deaths in the country and 67,910 people there have recovered so far.

In the U.S., there have been more than 3,800 confirmed cases and 69 deaths as of midday Monday.

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