A Sino-Indian diplomatic row has broken out over the quality of the rapid antibody test kits exported to India by China, following their sub-par performance in detecting the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The Chinese government has said criticism of the testing kits was “not based on facts” and has charged that it was “unfair and irresponsible for certain individuals to label Chinese products as ‘faulty’ and look at issues with preemptive prejudice”.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had on April 27 asked state governments not to use the rapid antibody test kits procured from two Chinese companies (Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech, and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics) and had said these should be returned to the suppliers.
Reacting to the criticism, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi —which referred to “individuals” complaining about the kits, not the Indian government —raised cudgels on behalf of the two private companies.
It said in a statement that both companies had stressed that their Covid-19 rapid antibody test kits had obtained certification from the National Medical Products Administration of China (NMPA), meet the quality standards of China and exported countries, and were validated and approved by ICMR through the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
The kits produced by the firms had been exported to and well recognised in many countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, the statement added.
“Any operation that is not carried out by professionals in accordance with the product specifications will lead to the testing accuracy variations. ICMR also made it clear that rapid antibody test kits should only be used for surveillance purposes instead of replacing RT-PCR test to diagnose and confirm the cases, and States are advised to strictly abide by the methods and purpose of the usage according to ICMR’s clear instructions,” the statement said, warning that if the kits were used for purposes they were not intended to serve, the results they would show would be faulty.
Explaining why it was defending two private companies, the Chinese government said many countries had been buying medical equipment from the Chinese markets via commercial channels.
“While satisfying domestic demand, we support export by companies with qualifications and credibility, and provide convenience in production, transport and Customs clearance to facilitate foreign procurement and orderly exporting to countries including India. Chinese manufacturers have been working around the clock to try their best to provide medical supplies to help other countries fight the epidemic and protect people’s lives and health,” the statement said. “The quality of medical products exported from China is prioritised.”
The statement added: “we hope the Indian side could respect China’s goodwill and sincerity, strengthen communication with relevant Chinese companies based on facts, and resolve it reasonably and properly.”