Chinese ventilator makers receive orders from US as pandemic worsens

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/23 20:04:02

Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Kirkland, Washington. Photo: AFP

Some Chinese major ventilator makers have received orders from the US as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rapidly grow in the US which now reports a shortage of up to 790,000 ventilators to help the severe patients breathe.

Despite souring ties between China and the US after US President Donald Trump maliciously referred to COVID-19 as "Chinese virus," many manufacturers in China stressed that humanity and international responsibility come first in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, and they would not restrict orders to the US for the safety of vast American people. 

Richard Li, CEO of Beijing Siriusmed Medical Device, told the Global Times on Monday that eight US clients have reached out to the company to buy the urgently needed ventilators, though the number of orders hasn't been settled.

The firm has received orders for nearly 1,000 ventilators from countries including Italy, Poland and Ecuador, and manufacturing has been arranged to June. The company mainly exports R30 and R50 ventilators with a price range from 100,000 to 200,000 yuan ($14,054-$28,108).

"Before the epidemic, the sales of ventilators only accounted for about 20-30 percent of our revenue. That proportion will change significantly in the wake of the deadly pandemic," he said.

The intended purchase comes after Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York State, said over the weekend that New York city has only 5,000 to 6,000 ventilators. With cases of coronavirus in the state soaring from 800 to 8,000 within a week, Cuomo estimated that the state may require 30,000 ventilators to meet surging demand.

He said that the state has sent people to China - one of the largest ventilator makers in the world - "shopping for ventilators." 

"We don't restrict export orders and we won't treat our customers differently because you come from a certain country. All our contracts are business-oriented. Frankly speaking, orders are flocking to Chinese manufactures from all over the world," an industry insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times on Monday.

According to The New York Times, there are about 170,000 ventilators in the US, while some reports estimate the number is far short of the 960,000 units that are needed in coming two months.

Trump said car manufacturers including Ford, GM, and Tesla have been given the "go ahead" to produce ventilators. But industry insiders pointed out Washington needs to pin its hope on supplies from Beijing, as it is quite difficult for an automaker to shift production in a short time due to the lack of a complete industrial chain for making ventilators. 

Li said that less than 10 percent of the company's components are imported, and therefore its manufacturing almost wasn't affected by virus outbreaks abroad. 

But Li Kai, director at Beijing Aeonmed Co, said that the company faces difficulty in finding adequate material supplies amid an abrupt surge of orders, as some materials like sensors are imported from countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US. "We're trying our best to overcome this problem", he said, noting that there is a possibility that the company may face short supplies of components.

Currently, the countries in urgent need of Chinese-made ventilators and Aeonmed's overseas subsidiary are helping to coordinate components supply, Li Kai said.

During SARS in 2003, Chinese-made ventilators accounted for less than 50 percent of market share in the country, and China largely relied on foreign manufacturers like Germany's Dräger and France's Taema, said Johnson Zhang, a domestic ventilator industry insider. 

"But now local brands like Aeonmed, Siriusmed and Mindray have made marked progress by supporting other countries, showcasing China's rising manufacturing capability and the country's international responsibility," Zhang said.

At the current stage, Chinese manufacturers claim they are overwhelmed with export orders to the US. 

A manager of Shenzhen-based ventilator producer Mindray, surnamed Chen, told the Global Times that the firm is negotiating more orders with Italy. "We don't plan to export to the US because we haven't gained the FDA certificate for exports to the US," Chen said.

Mindray has exported 400 to 500 ventilators so far, mainly to European countries. Industry insiders said that it may take several months or a year to gain FDA certificates in usual situations. 

Ventilator manufacturer Beijing Aeonmed Co also told the Global Times on Monday that it has received orders for several thousand ventilators from about 35 countries and regions, including Italy, the UK, Russia and Serbia.

The company started to shift focus to ventilator exports in mid-March as the epidemic was largely under control within China, Li Kai told the Global Times on Monday. So far, the company has delivered nearly 1,000 ventilators, including 50 shipped to Italy on March 17, 20 to Russia and 30 to Mongolia on March 16, Li Kai said.


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