Spain is sending back faulty coronavirus tests to China that were supposed to be replacements for the first faulty batch

Health workers outside the 12 de Octubre Hospital in Madrid, Spain, on March 10, 2020.Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images)
  • Spain found faults in a batch of coronavirus tests sent by a Chinese company, which had been sent as a replacement for a first batch that the country received and then returned.
  • Spain says it now wants a refund for its entire order of 640,000 tests after finding the tests in both batches weren't sensitive enough to consistently detect the virus, El País newspaper reported.
  • The faults in the first batch from Bioeasy, the Chinese company, came at a crucial time in the county's fight against the outbreak. Now more than 21,000 people have died in the country.
  • China said Bioeasy was not an approved retailer, and opened an investigation into it last month. Other countries have reported problems with equipment bought from other Chinese companies.
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Spain has found faults in a second batch of coronavirus tests bought from a Chinese company that was intended to replace a first batch of faulty tests.

Spain's health ministry confirmed to El País newspaper that it is trying to get a refund for the tests that it bought from Bioeasy, a Chinese company, after testing a sample and discovering that they were not sensitive enough to detect enough coronavirus cases.

The new batch was meant to be a replacement for 58,000 tests that Bioeasy sent Spain last month, El País reported. Spain then determined that the tests could not consistently detect positive cases and decided to return them.Advertisement

El País reported that after the faults with the first batch, Bioeasy suggested changing the tests to another form of testing that required a machine to read the result, and said it would give the machines free of charge.

A Spanish soldier stands next to beds set up at a temporary hospital at the Fira Barcelona Montjuic centre in Barcelona on March 25, 2020.PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

But in light of the issues with the new tests, Spain now wants a refund for the entire order of 640,000 tests. It did not say how much the order is worth.
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Spain has now also abandoned its plan to use rapid tests, according to El País, relying instead on tests that look for antibodies in recovered people and on a more expensive form of looking for the virus in peoples' DNA.

The first batch of tests could not consistently identify positive coronavirus cases

El País reported in March that health authorities examined the rapid tests, which are supposed to give an accurate result within minutes, and realized that they were only correctly identifying people with the virus 30% of the time. Sources told the newspaper at the time that the tests should have had a sensitivity of more than 80%, which is the standard the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires for rapid influenza tests.Advertisement

Spain separately ordered 432 million euros ($460 million) worth of medical equipment from China, including 5.5 million tests.

The first faulty batch arrived while Spain was battling the worst of its crisis and its deaths had soared to 4,000, becoming at the time the world's second-most infected country after Italy.

Spain's infections are still the second-highest in the world. More than 21,000 people have now died in the country, and its more than 208,000 infections are second only to the US.Advertisement

But its number of new infections has slowed, its death rate has halved, and its parliament is discussing steps to slowly start to reopen the country.

Health workers react during a tribute for their co-worker who died of the coronavirus outside the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes, Spain, April 13, 2020.REUTERS/Susana Vera

China has distanced itself from Bioeasy, saying it is not an approved vendor

The Chinese Embassy in Spain tweeted after reports of issues with the first batch sent to Spain that Bioeasy had not been given a license from China's National Medical Products Administration to sell its products.Advertisement

It also said Bioeasy was not on the list of manufacturers that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce had given to Spain, and that the medical supplies China was donating to other countries did not include Bioeasy products.

Spain's government said that Bioeasy had permission to export to the EU, and said it had bought the tests from a Spanish distributor rather than directly from Bioeasy, El País reported.

China has since cracked down on exports of medical equipment, saying any company exporting coronavirus tests needs to obtain a registration certificate from the National Medical Products Administration.Advertisement

China also opened an investigation into Bioeasy last month after reports of the first batch of faulty tests.

A batch of 8 million protective masks from Shanghai is unloaded from a plane at the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich, Germany, on April 2020.CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images
The pandemic has resulted in a boom in medical equipment production in China, with 38,000 new companies in China registering to make or trade face masks in 2020 so far, as companies pivot their output during a global mask shortage.Advertisement

But other countries have also rejected medical equipment from Chinese companies, citing faults.

The Netherlands, Turkey, and Ireland are among countries reporting issues with equipment bought from China, like masks and tests.

The UK government also ordered 3.5 million antibody tests from China, which did not work. The New York Times reported that these came from two companies, AllTest Biotech and Wondfo Biotech.Advertisement

India has also reported malfunctions in the antibody tests it ordered from China, and has paused the use of some rapid tests.

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