A group of Chinese medics on Wednesday arrived in Nigeria to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, despite angry criticism from health workers in the country. The 15-medics team were greeted by senior officials on the tarmac at Abuja airport after flying in on a month-long deployment with a planeload of medical supplies.
China — where the first outbreak of the COVID-19 disease occurred — has dispatched medics and supplies across the globe in a soft power push to burnish its image. But the move to send help to Nigeria sparked an irate backlash from the country’s biggest doctors’ union.
On Sunday, the Nigerian Medical Association condemned the planned deployment as “a thing of embarrassment” to health workers fighting the disease in Africa’s most populous country “under deplorable conditions”. “It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering front-line health workforce if the government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors,” a statement said. “The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic.” Officials insist the Chinese team will help advise local authorities on handling the pandemic. Nigeria — which has so far recorded 254 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six death — is seen as highly vulnerable to the spread of the virus due to its weak healthcare system and high population density. The country has already received medical supplies, including masks, gowns and testing kits from China’s richest man Jack Ma. Those deliveries, too, have been met with some suspicion. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control was forced last week to deny widespread rumours that equipment from China was contaminated with the novel coronavirus.