Boxes marked ‘Made in China’ are lined up in NewAir’s warehouse in Cypress, California, U.S. on May 24, 2019.
At least 1.4 million coronavirus test kits and 2.4 million face masks are stuck in warehouses in China and can’t reach the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported.
New Chinese export restrictions implemented this month have slowed the shipment of tests and protective gear to US customers that desperately need them.
Public-health experts have said widespread coronavirus testing is vital to ensuring states can start to lift stay-at-home orders and open businesses.
Chinese officials said the restrictions were meant to both ensure the country wasn’t exporting vital goods and to ensure quality control.
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Urgently needed US-bound medical supplies are sitting in warehouses in China and can’t reach the American hospitals and companies that have ordered them, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing suppliers, brokers, and US diplomatic memos.
One order for 1.4 million COVID-19 tests made by the Massachusetts medical company PerkinElmer can’t leave its factory in Suzhou, China, because new rules require a particular certification, according to a State Department memo cited by the newspaper.
PerkinElmer told The Journal it’s working with the Chinese government on the issue.
A shortage in protective gear such as medical-grade face masks, gloves, and gowns continued to plague hospitals and local governments across the US. But most of those items are not made domestically, and the US has been trying to get large orders out of China.
An order of 2.4 million masks remains stuck in a Shanghai warehouse due to the same certification issue, and can’t reach the Virginia firm Owens & Minor Inc., according to another State Department memo.
The memo reportedly said the hospital operator Emory Health similarly couldn’t get an order of 100,000 N95 masks and 40,000 isolation gowns out of China.
The new export restrictions were implemented earlier in April, and Chinese officials said they were meant to both ensure the country wasn’t exporting vital goods and to ensure quality control, according to The Journal.
At the start of 2020 the SNS had barely 1% of the N95 masks that healthcare workers are expected to need during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Countries across the world are all hunting for medical supplies, causing a big challenge for China’s efforts of quality control and regulation of export,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington told the newspaper.
Public-health experts have said widespread coronavirus testing is vital to ensuring states can start to lift stay-at-home orders and open businesses, and local governments have said supply-chain issues have stood in the way of mass testing.
But a complicating factor has been the criticism China has faced in recent weeks regarding the quality of its products. For instance, a number of European countries have complained that coronavirus testing kits shipped out of China were not accurate. In response, China mandated that exporters obtain new certifications before clearing customs.
The delays can be severe — Illinois Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell told The Journal the state is anticipating a six to 10-day wait due to the certification rules.
“Every single day we don’t have the proper protective equipment is a new health-care worker exposed, is a new hole in the ship that is our current hospital system and ICU bed structure,” Christian told The Journal.
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