China ready to supply coronavirus testing kits to the world
Published: Mar 02, 2020 09:37 PM

A recovered COVID-19 patient donates plasma on a blood donation bus in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 27, 2020. Two recovered patients of novel coronavirus infection donated plasma in Beijing on Thursday. (Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)

Global demand for COVID-19 testing kits is likely to surge in the coming days as new cases of the virus arise daily in the world, and Chinese firms have the ability and are prepared to help supply that demand to countries in Asia and Europe, as well as the US, industry players told the Global Times.

The death toll from the coronavirus has passed 3,000 worldwide, the situation in countries such as in Italy and Iran continues to worsen, and many countries are reporting their first cases. Global infections have surpassed 80,000.

The rising numbers are pressuring a global supply for the test kits, a critical way to diagnose the disease.

An industry insider told the Global Times on Monday that China is fully able to fulfill domestic test kit demand, with more than 10 enterprises capable of producing these items. More medical companies plan to adjust their production lines or have done so, to produce the kits, and the world's manufacturing base is now more than ready to supply the world.

The insider revealed that major research staff of some state-owned medical companies were called back from the Spring Festival Holidays to respond to China's surging demand during that time, and some of the companies could produce test kits for 75,000 people a day even when the factories' production ability had not fully recovered.

China's BGI Group, a leading private genome sequencing company told the Global Times on Monday that it could currently produce diagnostic kits for 100,000 people every day, and could "expand rapidly based on demand."

As of Monday, BGI has sent coronavirus detection kits for about 310,000 people to 26 countries and regions in the world including Brunei, India and Japan, and it is planning to send more.

Having guaranteed a Free Sales Certificate from Danish Medicines Agency on Sunday, the company is also preparing for exports to EU and places that recognize the certificate, where the epidemic is rapidly spreading.

As of press time, the number of people infected in Italy - the center of the outbreak in Europe - had jumped to over 1,600, while the number in France increased to 130.

According to the insider, at least two other Chinese companies will also apply for the EU certificate, in an effort to prepare for exports, as European countries may not have large storage capacity. 

Nevertheless, BGI's current export destination does not include the US, the company revealed, although the country is planning for a "radical expansion" of coronavirus testing. Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, said on Sunday that the US now has enough diagnostic kits to test 75,000 people, with more on the way.

The US also reported its second death from the virus in Washington state on Sunday (US time), and five more people have tested positive for the virus on the same, said local authorities.

"BGI's testing kits, which use its advantage in gene sequencing, are actually suited to the US' immediate demand as they could better identify the difference between a flu and the coronavirus, which shares similar symptoms," Lv Mengtao, operation director of Beijing Zhimed Medical Science, told the Global Times on Monday.

Lv noted that applying for a license for exporting to the US is difficult and requires more time, which might be one of the reasons why exports are not available yet.

China is willing to offer help, while it still depends on how fast Chinese companies could get import approval from different countries, Lv said, calling for a green channel for fast-approval of test kits for countries that are in urgent demand.

China has donated a batch of test kits to Japan and Iran during the past week.
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