In the final hours before a 21-day national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) received an essential donation of medical protective gear from the People’s Republic of China Armed Forces on Thursday, 26 March.
With the SANDF mobilised to assist the South African Police Service in support of the national lockdown, which took effect at midnight on Thursday, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) is deeply involved in dealing with COVID-19.
Due to the extensive experience in the combating the 2019 coronavirus outbreak and treatment of those afflicted with the virus, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA, the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China) has increased bilateral cooperation between the countries.
At a ceremony at the SAMHS depot in Pretoria, a Chinese-community owned company based in South Africa, Hennox Supplies, donated 30 000 face and nose masks and 2 000 protective eye goggles to the SANDF. These will be for the utilisation by various members of the SANDF directly involved in supporting Government efforts during the state-proclaimed 21-day lockdown.
Chief of the SANDF General Solly Shoke received the masks and goggles from Major General Shang Hong, the Chinese Defence Attaché. SANDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam, Lieutenant General Jabulani Mbuli (Chief Logistics Division), Major General Noel Nhdlovu (Deputy Surgeon General) and representatives from Hennox Supplies Company attended the Ceremony.
Earlier in March, China organised a bilateral symposium between the two countries, whereby China shared COVID-19 related information with members of the SAMHS, including the PLA’s experience on COVID-19 control.
A Chinese Embassy staff member told defenceWeb that “we shared the Chinese official documents about prevention and control of COVID-19 and diagnosis and treatment protocol for COVID-19.”
Shoke expressed his appreciation to the Chinese PLA and local Chinese community on behalf of the SANDF for the timely assistance and said that he hoped that the PPE (personal protective equipment) will be distributed to the officers and soldiers in operations against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
The Chinese representatives responded that they would like to assist the SANDF to get the necessary PPE, temperature testing equipment, COVID-19 testing facilities and kits and medicines in order to increase the capability of the SANDF in virus control.
In addition to the provision of equipment and supplies, China is looking at further cooperation in the fields of traditional medicine development and joint anti-virus research in the medium term.