Staff work at a medical mask production workshop in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province, March 30, 2020. Approved by local authorities, an equipment manufacturing enterprise in Tangshan has set up a facial mask production company to ensure the supply of facial masks during the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)
"It isn't the moment for prejudices and accusations or for declarations which seek to politicize a pandemic. It is time for us to work together and in this sense being able to count on the help of China is a guarantee."
by Yang Xiaohong
PRAGUE/BRUSSELS/MADRID, April 3 (Xinhua) -- While many Chinese enterprises are working around the clock to fulfill overseas demand for medical products, inaccurate reports, even rumours about low quality or "fake" Chinese-made medical supplies are confusing the public struggling against the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
However, as time goes by and investigation gets deeper, the truth is coming out.
A spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday clarified once again the issue of face masks in the Netherlands, citing the results of preliminary investigation, which shows that the batch of masks were purchased from a Chinese company through a Dutch agent company, and the Chinese company had informed the Dutch side that the masks are non-surgical masks before shipment.
Recently, some media outlets in the European country reported that the Dutch Ministry of Health recalled a batch of masks purchased from China "due to quality problems." According to the reports, these masks are not appropriate for the medical staff in the ICU.
Screenshot of an article published by the NOS, one of the largest news organizations in the Netherlands, claiming that the quality of masks imported from China is "unsound (ondeugdelijk)."
"We all know that masks of various category offer different levels of protection," Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing. "We want to remind everyone to double-check the instructions for use to make sure what they purchase can serve their intended purposes and avoid making mistakes in a rush, such as misusing non-surgical masks for surgical purposes."
Similar scenario happened in Spain and the Czech Republic.
Earlier last week, there were reports from some Spanish media saying that quick test kits from China had a very low accuracy rate in testing for COVID-19. The test kit manufacturer, the Shenzhen-based Bioeasy Biotechnology firm, denied the accusation then, suggesting that the incorrect results may be a result of failures in collecting samples or using the kits incorrectly.
In a statement, the Shenzhen company said it has made video instructions for Spanish clients on how to use the kits more accurately.
As for the Czech case, the news website irozhlas.cz published a story interviewing head of the Moravian-Silesian Hygiene Station Pavla Svrcinova, who mentioned the high faulty results of the test kits.
With a sensational headline saying "Coronavirus rapid tests from China have an error rate of up to 80 percent," the story has ignored the explanation by Deputy Prime Miniter and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek in the main text. In the article, Hamacek ascribed the alleged high error rate to possible wrong methodology of test utilization, as these tests were designed for later diagnoses, hence proved to be not so accurate for patients in very early stages of infection.
Screenshot of an article published by irozhlas.cz, a Czech news website, with a sensational headline saying "Coronavirus rapid tests from China have an error rate of up to 80 percent."
Four days later, the irozlas.cz reinterviewed Svrcinova, and she admitted that she was not given the instruction of how to correctly use the kit at first and later they changed the method of usage and the results were good.
In both cases, Chinese embassies in the separate countries have closely followed the issue and helped clarify the truth and solve the problems.
International trade experts said it is possible some problems might occur during this period of time as the COVID-19 spreads at such an unprecedented speed around the world and demand for medical equipment surges in one night.
A combination of factors, from insufficient communication between two sides to unfamiliarity of operators with new products, from illegal production activities to loopholes in foreign market, could cause problems which would be considered as quality problems of products. But that should not be read through a political lens.
Such problems can and should be solved in an apolitical manner, and countries need to back each other in conducting investigations through objective means. The fact is, a vast majority of Chinese-made medical equipment is not only up to standard but has helped many countries around the world to stem the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Employees produce ventilators at Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co., Ltd., a medical device manufacturer based in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, March 31, 2020. (Xinhua/Liang Xu)
"It is irresponsible for the few media to hype up the so-called quality issue of Chinese products before getting their facts straight. I do hope they are not driven by ulterior motives because apparently such hype-up does not help international cooperation in fighting the pandemic," said Hua at Thursday's press conference.
Xulio Rios, director of the Observatory of Chinese Politics in Spain, is now worried about the negative effect of the test kit issue. He told Xinhua that it is important to listen to the advice and recommendations from China.
"Had this been done, some issues regarding the quality of some material sent to Spain could have been avoided," he said, adding that the priority now is to deepen the trust and maintain a rational attitude, and not to let the issue endanger international cooperation.
"It isn't the moment for prejudices and accusations or for declarations which seek to politicize a pandemic. It is time for us to work together and in this sense being able to count on the help of China is a guarantee," said Rios.
"Spain values the efforts of the Chinese authorities and of thousands of people, thousands of kilometers away, who are working 24 hours a day to produce the material we need to save lives while we are locked in our homes," he noted.
EXPORT MANAGEMENT IMPROVED
China attaches great importance to export quality control. Relevant departments have just rolled out more rigorous regulative measures to ensure the quality of medical supplies exports amid the global fight against the novel coronavirus disease.
Starting Wednesday, exporters of medical products including COVID-19 testing kits, medical masks, medical protective suits, ventilators and infrared thermometers need to provide extra documentation when they go through customs clearance, according to a notice jointly issued by the Ministry of Commerce with the General Administration of Customs and the National Medical Products Administration.
The document should contain a declaration that the products have been officially registered in China and meet the quality-control standards of their respective export destinations, it said.
Also, investigations will be carried out into any cases with potential quality issues, said the authorities, which vowed zero tolerance on such issues.
"No matter whether materials are sold domestically or internationally, substandard medical supplies should not be allowed to enter the market. Producers of such medical supplies should be punished according to the law," said Song Wei, associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.
(Xinhua reporters Pan Geping, Yu Yue in Brussels, Feng Junwei, Paul Giblin in Madrid also contributed to the story.)■