ISSN 2330-717X

Caution Needed While Sourcing COVID-19 Equipment From China – OpEd


While it is a fact that  COVID-19 originated in China, it could not have been restricted only to Wuhan region. Certainly, it should have spread to other parts of China at least to some extent, until Government of China woke up to the seriousness of the issue.

The official records in China say that around 85,000 people were infected with COVID-19, of which more than 3,700 people died. Even as the world is battling with the virus, China claims that it has sorted out the issue and it is free from the virus. Nobody is in a position to verify the veracity of this claim, since only official communication are permitted from China and freedom of speech is completely curtailed.

While COVID-19 has spread to more than 175 countries in the world today, it is strange that several countries are sourcing masks and testing equipment from China where the COVID virus originated and China seems to have the last laugh.

Given the extremely difficult situation, several countries are now desperately looking for testing equipment and masks  and other accessories to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. China is readily obliging these countries and supplying massive quantities and of course,  making huge money and profit in a scenario of “seller’s market”.  Obviously, China is stepping up the production of such accessories and equipment for COVID-19 to meet the surging demand from several countries.

Some people even wonder as to China’s worldwide publicity campaign that it has become free of COVID-19 and now no death is occurring due to the virus in China, is aimed at creating a huge conducive world wide market for testing kits and other accessories from China for treating COVID-19.

China claims that it has opened all the manufacturing facilities and lifted the lockdown completely in most parts of the country.

In the present circumstances, where there is no certainty of virus being completely wiped out from China, it is quite possible that some of the goods made in China could possibly have some level of virus presence, about which nobody knows. Under the circumstances, great caution is required in procuring COVID equipment from  China. It appears that such care and  caution is neither observed by the buyers from other countries nor the seller (China).

Amongst several countries, USA which is of late one of the biggest critics of China and  raising doubts about China’s credibility, has imported plane load of masks and other accessories. from China, obviously without prior checking and inspection in adequate manner. It is particularly shocking that  Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) which is known for insisting most stringent standards for pharmaceuticals in USA,  is remaining silent on this “procurement hurry” by the US government.

It should be noted that testing kits supplied by China have been found faulty by Spain, Czech Republic and Turkey. Philippines has also reported faulty kits. More complaints could come  from several countries now. China has not denied such complaints but has offered to replace them, which obviously means that China has admitted that the supply from China  could be below stipulated standards.

It is now well accepted  all over the world that COVID-19 is a contagious disease and could spread through human to human contact. Further, medical practitioners advise the people to wash the hands frequently to ensure that any touch of virus infected area or point would not cause infection.

It is reported that Government of India is placing  order for personal protective equipment (PPE) masks, eye gear and other items and ventilators from China.

In Tamil Nadu in India, which is one of the regions in India heavily affected by COVID 19 crisis, has announced that it has placed order for procuring 0.1 million  rapid test kits from China, which is expected to arrive in the next few days. The Tamil Nadu government further announced that these test kits would be despatched to all districts in the state immediately on receipt.  Tamil Nadu government further claims that the speciality of these test kits from China will be that the results would be known within 30 minutes.

Keeping in view the  experience in different countries by procuring test kits and accessories from China and the fact that China is a country infected by the virus,  it is very obvious that caution are thrown to the winds by the buyers. This is a very undesirable way of procurement and may even do more harm than good to the recipients.

It should be noted that these materials are being procured in a hurry without properly inspecting the shop floor conditions and testing procedures adopted  in the manufacturing units in China, which is a normal pre requisite for healthy procurement procedure.

While it is agreed that the buyers are in a desperate hurry to procure and put the product to use, it is very necessary that procurement procedures should not be given up  or diluted under any circumstances.

It is shocking that several buyers are putting to use the test kits  and masks from China immediately after receipt, without any quality testing of the received goods.

It is very important to be cautious and at least 30% of the  COVID equipments like testing kits or masks from China should be subjected to tests by every procuring country in the world by random sampling before putting to use.

With the available testing facilities to identify the presence of virus on the goods and lack of clear knowledge about the nature of behavior of the virus, it is quite possible that some of the goods procured from China may have virus infected in them, which may not be known even to the producers in China.

The anxiety is that solutions should not worsen the problem.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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