A team of experts from Hunan province provided training for local Chinese in Equatorial Guinea on the prevention and control the coronavirus on Tuesday. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
China's efforts to help Africa fight the COVID-19 pandemic are effective and timely, and the continent can learn from the country's experience in containing the virus, according to experts.
Hisham AbuBakr Metwally, an economics researcher at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry, said that since the coronavirus outbreak struck Africa, China has dispatched medical equipment and supplies to countries on the continent where there is a desperately need. It has also sent experienced medical teams to Africa to help fight the pandemic.
"Chinese efforts to help the African continent are very effective and beneficial," he said, adding that he hoped China could share its experience in patient tracking programs and the issuance of electronic health certificates allowing people to go to work, and greater mobility.
Tang Xiaoyang, a researcher in African studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said: "Africa will need a lot of global support to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to reopen its economy, as it has a relatively weak healthcare system and a large population living in poverty. Moreover, Africa's economy greatly relies on global markets."
Koh King Kee, president of the Centre for New Inclusive Asia, an Asian think tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said that although Africa appears not to have experienced COVID-19 as badly as some regions, the continent could be overwhelmed by the disease if community transmission takes place due to weak public healthcare systems. In such a scenario, the pandemic would also wreak havoc on vulnerable economies.
He praised President Xi Jinping's speech to the 73rd World Health Assembly, in which the Chinese leader highlighted the need for the world to provide more material, technological and personal support to African countries.
Xi said developing countries, in particular those in Africa, have weaker public health systems. Helping them build capacity must be China's top priority in the response to COVID-19.
China has provided a significant amount of medical supplies and assistance to more than 50 African countries and the African Union. Five teams of Chinese medical experts have been sent to the continent, and at present, 46 resident Chinese medical teams are in Africa helping local COVID-19 containment efforts, he said.
Xi added that China would establish a cooperation mechanism to team up with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of an African disease control headquarters.
Metwally said: "The new mechanism is very important for many African countries, as it provides very valuable protocols and systems to be used especially during this pandemic period. China's contribution to building an African center for disease control is very helpful and we appreciate it as the China-Africa relationship is built on a shared future."
Koh said China has provided medical aid to Africa in recent decades and has gained a better understanding of the continent's public health conditions.
He added that African countries are not as densely populated as large cities in Asia, Europe and the United States.
"As spatial distribution of a population is a key determinant of transmission, contact tracing is of particular importance in containing the spread of the virus. China's intensive contact tracing system for COVID-19 infection will be of special relevance to African countries," Koh said.
Moreover, frontline medical professionals working in a weak healthcare system are in danger of greater exposure to the virus, he added.
In this respect, African countries can also learn from China how to better protect their frontline medical workers, as the country has experienced a comparatively low number of deaths among such professionals fighting the pandemic, he added.