New Delhi: Beijing has said it is “unfair and irresponsible” on the part of a few individuals to label the Covid-19 testing kits India procured from China as “faulty” as the comments come with “preemptive prejudice”.
The reaction has come amid widespread criticism of the kits India imported earlier this month, and the subsequent direction by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to states to stop using them.
In a statement Tuesday, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said, “The quality of medical products exported from China is prioritized. It is unfair and irresponsible for certain individuals to label Chinese products as ‘faulty’ and look at issues with preemptive prejudice.”
On the ICMR issue, she said, “We hope the Indian side could respect China’s goodwill and sincerity, strengthen communication timely with relevant Chinese companies based on facts, and resolve it reasonably and properly.”
On Monday, the ICMR, India’s apex health research body, asked states and union territories to stop using the rapid antibody Covid-19 testing kits procured from two Chinese companies after an evaluation of the kits showed “wide variation” in the results.
“We are deeply concerned with the evaluation results and the decision made by Indian Council of Medical Research. China attaches great importance to the quality of exported medical products. Recently, Chinese Embassy in India has maintained close contact with ICMR and the two Chinese companies to find out the real situation,” the Chinese Embassy statement added.
On 16 April, India received 5.5 lakh rapid antibody testing kits from two Chinese manufacturers — 3 lakh from Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and 2.5 lakh from Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics. Two days later, a second batch of 3 lakh kits came in from China. All the kits were then distributed among the states.
The ICMR’s instructions to states came nearly 10 days later.
In its statement, China said there are “strict requirements for the storage, transportation and use” of Covid-19 rapid antibody test kits.
“Any operation which is not carried out by professionals in accordance with the product specifications will lead to the testing accuracy variations,” it said.
“ICMR also made it clear that rapid antibody test kits should only be used for surveillance purposes instead of replacing RT-PCR test to diagnose and confirm the cases, and States are advised to strictly abide by the methods and purpose of the usage according to ICMR’s clear instructions,” it added.
Ji Rong said Covid-19 antibody rapid test kits produced by these two Chinese companies have been exported to, and recognised in, many countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Last week, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong had said Beijing has opened a “Green Channel” for movement of Indian air cargo transport during the pandemic. It has approved 35 cargo flights carrying medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, ventilators and testing kits to India.
China has opened “green channel” for Indian air cargo transport during the #epidemic and approved 35 cargo flights carring medical supplies such as PPEs, ventilators and testing kits to India in the need of the hour. We will continue to support India fighting against #COVID19.
— Sun Weidong (@China_Amb_India) April 24, 2020
‘Procurement only from certified Chinese firms’
Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri told ThePrint last week that the government has taken adequate measures to ensure the testing kits are obtained only from certified companies, which figure on an official Chinese government list.
“China happens to be one of the largest producers of a number of these products. I would like to underline that we are facilitating contracts following instructions of the government, especially, the designated empowered group for procurement,” he said.
“We are not involved in the procurement that is being done by several other agencies in India, including private entities, though, of course, we do provide assistance where required to help those entities with last-mile issues,” Misri added.
Chinese customs agencies are permitting the export of only those medical supplies that are produced by companies certified by the Chinese National Medical Products Administration, he said.