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It’s been months — and China still can’t deliver.
The COVID-19 global outbreak that ignited a mad dash to buy up millions of masks, rapid test kits and other personal protective equipment around the world hit a major snag when countries counted on China for help.
The growing pains of trying to slide into the role of international hero as well as rushing — and failing — to fulfill billions of orders might lead to China’s undoing.
When news of the novel coronavirus hit, China, the epicenter of the crisis, became the target of anger and accusations.
Still, as the virus grew in strength and spread around the world infecting more than 2.5 million people, China took the opportunity to rebrand itself as a global humanitarian.
The problem is that they aren’t one.
While suggesting to the world they were donating equipment and test kits, Beijing actually bumped up prices and sold lifesaving supplies at a tremendous profit.
When countries started to complain about the quality of the products they had purchased from China, instead of taking the criticism and vowing to do better, China initially blamed it on user error.
Things have steadily gone downhill since then as more and more countries come forward with claims of shoddy products and test kits that don’t meet medical standards.
Spain got a double dose of poorly made China test kits. The country announced Thursday it is sending back faulty coronavirus tests that were supposed to be replacements for the first faulty batch the country brought from China.
Spain’s Health Ministry said the order of 640,000 antigen coronavirus tests were canceled after health officials once again found the tests were not sensitive enough to detect the virus.
Spain had initially bought $467 million in medical supplies from China, including 950 ventilators, 5.5 million testing kits, 11 million gloves and more than half a billion protective face masks. But soon after the shipment was received, the Spanish government announced plans to return 9,000 “quick result” test kits to China because they were deemed substandard, specifically the sensibility of the test was around 30 percent when it should have been higher than 80 percent.
With its patience pushed, the European country is demanding a refund.
Spain has 213,024 confirmed coronavirus cases – the second most in the world behind the United States. Spain’s numbers could be even higher because the country has not been testing widely.
The Netherlands also had a problem with China and complained that the masks it was sent did not close over the face properly and that others had defective filters. Dutch officials had to recall tens of thousands of the ones they had already distributed to hospitals because they didn’t meet quality standards, the health ministry said in a March 21 statement.
Up to 80 percent of the 150,000 rapid coronavirus test kits China delivered to the Czech Republic in March were also faulty and less accurate than other tests, forcing the Czech Republic to continue to rely on conventional laboratory tests.
In April, the Australian Border Force seized around 800,000 defective face masks it bought from Beijing worth $7.6 million following a video that went viral of a Chinese factory worker snickering as he rubbed the face masks on his shoe. People not only had a problem with the masks but also with how much China charged Australia for them. A senior government minister claimed the Chinese approach of jacking up the prices was borderline “extortion.”
Scientists in Slovakia, Turkey and Britain have also complained about faulty antigen or antibody coronavirus test kits bought from Chinese companies, in some cases costing their governments millions of dollars.
Georgia ended up canceling its contract with the Chinese company that sent its faulty test kits to Spain while Malaysia skipped China altogether and went with a South Korean company.
The United States, which has been at the forefront of Chinese criticism, has not been immune to faulty equipment.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker bought $17 million worth of masks from China after claiming the Trump administration was not helping hard-hit states. The money was spent on Chinese KN95 masks which the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said were an alternative to the hard-to-find N95 masks.
However, Missouri’s health department tested the masks made in China and found that 48,000 of them needed to be recalled.
Pritzker has come under fire from the White House for criticizing its handling of the coronavirus crisis. Trump pushed back and accused Pritzker of not being able to do his job and said he was “complaining all the time.”
“That’s the landscape we’re operating in, competing with other states, other countries, and even our own federal government for supplies – so if an airlift is what it takes to bring the PPE to protect our nurses, firefighters, police officers and other essential workers, then it’s an airlift we’ll use – without hesitation,” Pritzker said.