The king of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has said he recovered from COVID-19 and thanked Taiwan’s president for sending antiviral medication to help him.
The small southern African country, an absolute monarchy, is Taiwan’s only remaining diplomatic ally on the continent, and Taipei has provided large amounts of economic and other aid.
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In a speech on Friday, King Mswati III said while the country awaited the arrival of vaccines, there was an antiviral drug, which he did not name, that could be used to treat the illness.
He said he had tested positive “for a couple of days” in the first week of January, but was now negative.
“I am grateful to the president of the Republic of China on Taiwan for sending through this medication to treat me,” he said, using the island’s formal name in the speech posted on the eSwatini government’s official Twitter account.
The 52-year-old king had not previously reported his coronavirus infection. He said the drug, which was administered through a drip, had allowed him to recover before he even had time to announce his hospitalisation.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said that upon hearing the king was infected, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arranged medical assistance for him.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is gratified to hear of the eSwatini king’s successful recovery under the joint care of Taiwanese and eSwatini medical staff,” she said.
The king could have been referring to Gilead Sciences, Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir, which was conditionally approved in Europe in July for treating COVID-19 in adults and adolescents with pneumonia requiring oxygen support.
Taiwan also provisionally approved its use last year.
Using the slogan “Taiwan can help,” the government has been keen to showcase its assistance to other countries during the pandemic, donating face masks and other supplies.
The kingdom of eSwatini has recorded almost 17,000 coronavirus infections and 644 related deaths.
Its Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died in December after four weeks of treatment for COVID-19 in neighbouring South Africa.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties. Only 14 countries now officially recognise the island’s government.
Burkina Faso was the last African country to switch to China in May 2018, leaving eSwatini alone in the continent to have diplomatic relations with Taipei.