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Covid-19: US still relies on Chinese test kit, mask makers to fill supply gaps

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The US government’s plan to up the ante in at-home coronavirus test orders, as part of its efforts to fight the fast-spreading Omicron variant, has put the spotlight on Chinese test kit manufacturers, which are being relied on to fill the supply gap to meet US demand for COVID-19-critical medical supplies. 

Tianjin-based Andon Health Company has revealed multiple test kit orders from the US, setting its shares for a continued bull run.

Andon Health’s stocks in Shenzhen trading rose by the daily 10 percent limit to 75.28 yuan ($11.85) on Friday, topping a 0.09 percent gain in the Shenzhen Component Index. 

Its shares soared 49.07 percent over this week, making the company one of the top performers in the A-share market this year.

Behind the impressive bull run were massive US test kit purchases from the company’s US subsidiary iHealth Labs.

In a filing with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Friday, Andon Health said that the US Army Contracting Command, on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services, signed a $1.28 billion at-home test procurement deal with iHealth Labs. The contract was inked and effective on Wednesday.

“The contract involved is our subsidiary in the US, but our production is in Tianjin in North China,” a source from Andon told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Friday. 

“Our company produces this kit, and has been approved by the (US) Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization,” he added. 

The latest order adds to previous test procurement contracts iHealth Labs had signed with the New York State Department of Health and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Executive office of Health and Human Services.

These deals coincided with a US push for heftier spending on coronavirus-critical medical supplies, notably testing kits and facial masks, as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has added more pressure on the Biden administration to handle the runaway virus situation in the US.

Biden announced Thursday plans to buy an additional 500 million coronavirus tests, in addition to his previous pledge to order 500 million tests, fueling procurements from China where the US has been reliant for supplies that are key to the US’ response to the still-raging pandemic, industry insiders said.

Chinese test kit suppliers are not the only ones in full swing. 

A business manager giving his surname as Chen with a facial mask manufacturer in South China’s Guangdong Province told the Global Times on Friday that his company has seen a surge in orders from the US since the end of last year.

“The number of inquiries for orders from the US rose by 30 percent over the past week from the prior week, and the company is running at full capacity with its employees working extra shifts to meet clients’ needs.” 

Other than the US, the company also ships its products to Europe such as France and Germany, according to Chen. 

In a striking sign of the prevalent use of China-made facial masks in the US, members of the US House of Representatives were required to wear distributed masks stamped with “Made in China” on the chamber floor, Fox News reported Friday.

US lawmakers were ordered to “replace their cloth masks with N95 or KN95 masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant,” the report said.

Since the pandemic hit the US, Chinese-made masks, especially Chinese standard KN95 masks, per insiders, have played an essential role in supplying Americans.

Global Times

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