As the U.S. faces a severe shortage of Covid-19 testing material needed to help public health authorities understand the true scope of the coronavirus pandemic on American soil, China’s richest man, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma has donated 500,000 testing kits, plus one million face masks, to the U.S.
The first batch of those supplies took off in Shanghai on Sunday and is currently on route to Chicago. “All the best to our friends in America,” Ma tweeted on Sunday. It was also his first ever post on Twitter, which garnered over 50,000 likes and shares, including that of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s, within hours.
“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,” Ma said in a statement through his charity, the Jack Ma Foundation.
The rapid spread of Covid-19 in the U.S. in the past few weeks has spurred a nationwide shopping spree for protective products, particularly hand sanitizers, face masks and toilet paper, causing shortages at supermarkets across the country. More alarming, though, is the shortage of testing kits. According to Business Insider, the U.S. has the lowest Covid-19 tests per capita among developed countries hit by the virus.
The scarcity mainly lies in kits called reagents that are used to extract RNA from virus samples taken from patients. Health care experts said the shortage in the U.S. is in part due to the high demand for reagents in other coronavirus-hit countries, including Italy, South Korea and China. “[They] have used a lot of them. They’re way ahead of us on testing,” Rod Hochman, CEO of the Providence St. Joseph Health System told Business Insider.
“The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country. Rather, we need to combat the virus by working hand-in-hand,” Ma said in his foundation statement. “At this moment, we can’t beat this virus unless we eliminate boundaries to resources and share our know-how and hard-earned lessons.”
The Ma foundation said it has also sourced and donated supplies to Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.
Ma was among the first billionaires, along with Bill Gates, to announce donations to support medical research and prevention efforts related to Covid-19. He pledged 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) through his foundation in early February.
Ma was recently ranked as wealthiest person in Asia (and the 18th richest in the world) by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has a net worth of $42.3 billion.