The British government has ordered millions of coronavirus tests made in China that do not work, Public Health England’s Professor John Newton has admitted.
Professor Newton, the government’s new testing chief, said that while some of the Chinese tests could identify immunity in those who had been very sick, all of the tests had failed the minimum thresholds set for the trials. They “are not good enough to be worth rolling out in very large scale”, he said.
“The test developed in China was validated against patients who were severely ill with a very large viral load, generating a large amount of antibodies… whereas we want to use the test in the context of a wider range of levels of infection including people who are quite mildly infected,” Prof Newton said in comments reported by The Times.
“So for our purposes, we need a test that performs better than some of these other tests,” he added.
This is not the first time that China-made tests for the Chinese coronavirus have proven faulty. Late last month, Spain, the country with the second-highest number of fatalities and the highest number of cases in Europe, bought thousands of faulty antibody testing kits from China’s Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology. Chinese authorities claimed that Spain had purchased the tests, which were EU-certified, from a supplier that was not recommended by the Chinese state.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage expressed shock that the UK was buying ventilators from China, with 300 sent to the NHS last week. Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith criticised the business dealing, saying: “China shouldn’t be charging for this stuff. Why are they making money out of COVID-19 when it started in China? They shouldn’t be deriving any significant benefit at all.”
On Sunday, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that due to the government’s strict social distancing measures slowing down the rate of infection, the government downgraded the projected need for 30,000 ventilators by the virus’s peak to 18,000. However, the country is still a few thousand short of that figure, with the peak possibly hitting on Easter Sunday.
Mr Hancock said on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “We need to make sure we have more ventilators than there are people who need ventilation. At the moment, we have between 9,000 and 10,000 ventilators within the NHS right now, and we have the 2,000 spare that are critical care beds with ventilator capacity, ready, should people need to come into them and we’re ramping that up.”
“Our goal, instead of the 30,000, is that we need 18,000 ventilators over the coming few weeks,” he said.
Stating that another 1,500 would be available in the next week, the health minister said that he hopes the demand will be even lower. “But the 18,000 is our current goal because we want to be ready with belt and braces for a worst-case scenario” and that “we are on track to meet that goal”.
Neoconservative British think tank The Henry Jackson Society published a report on Sunday that recommended Western countries sue communist China for the coronavirus cover-up and failure to contain its disease.