Beijing cries foul after ICMR stops its rapid test use

Beijing cries foul after ICMR stops use of rapid test kits imported from China

Chinese Embassy in New Delhi says it is unfair, irresponsible to label products from the Communist country as faulty

Representative image. (Credit: AFP Photo)

China cried foul a day after Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) asked the State Governments to stop using the rapid antibody test kits imported from two companies in the neighbouring communist country for detection of the COVID-19 infections.

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“It is unfair and irresponsible for certain individuals to label Chinese products as ‘faulty’ and look at issues with preemptive prejudice,” Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in New Delhi, said early on Tuesday. She was reacting to the ICMR’s decision to stop use of the rapid test kits imported from Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Company Limited and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc of China.  

The ICMR on Monday said that it had evaluated the testing kits imported from China and found “wide variation” insensitivity, “despite the early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes”. It asked the State Governments to return the kits for being sent back to the suppliers.

The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, however, indicated that violation of the guidelines provided by the manufacturing companies regarding storage, transportation and use of the COVID-19 rapid test kits could lead to variation inaccuracy of the results.

Also read — ICMR asks states to stop rapid antibody tests by these two Chinese companies

The council had last week temporarily suspended the use of the rapid test kits imported from Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Company Limited and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc of China. It had acted after receiving complaints from the State Governments about inaccuracies in the findings of the tests conducted using kits.  

“Regarding the current issue”, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said, “We hope the Indian side could respect China’s goodwill and sincerity, strengthen communication timely with relevant Chinese companies based on facts, and resolve it reasonably and properly.”

India started importing rapid COVID-19 diagnostic kits from China on April 16. The first consignment to arrive in New Delhi had 300,000 kits from Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Company Limited and 250,000 from Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc. The kits were later distributed among the States.

The second consignment of about 300,000 came on April 18 for Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi referred to the statements issued by the two companies a few days back.

“They (the two companies) both stressed that their Covid-19 antibody rapid test kits had obtained the certification from China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), meet the quality standards of China and the countries they are exported to, and have also been validated and approved by ICMR through National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and considered as satisfactory products,” said Ji.

“The COVID-19 antibody rapid test kits produced by these two Chinese companies have been exported to and well recognised in many countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.”

The Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Company Limited and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc of China defended the kits, arguing that the rapid tests to detect presence of Covid-19 antibodies in the blood of a patient was more expected to give accurate results only after the “incubation period” of about seven or eight days following infection by the virus.

“We have also learned that there are strict requirements for the storage, transportation and use of COVID-19 antibody rapid test kits. Any operation which is not carried out by professionals in accordance with the product specifications will lead to the testing accuracy variations,” said Ji.

She also underlined that the ICMR itself had also made it clear that rapid antibody test kits should only be used for surveillance purposes instead of replacing the RT-PCR ((Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test to diagnose and confirm the cases.