Chinese-made COVID-19 test kits are coming to millions of American households via a White House initiative. The distribution, which commenced early last month, is component of a Biden administration plan to provide Americans with 1 billion free self testing equipment.
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As the White House’s free COVID-19 at-home testing kits arrive in the mails of millions of Americans, the “made in China” tag on a few of the tests is causing worry.
The distribution, which commenced early last month, is component of a Biden administration plan to provide Americans with 1 billion free self testing equipment. iHealth Labs, a California affiliate of Chinese medical equipment maker Andon Health, will supply a significant part of these kits.
According to Andon’s filings and federal contract data, the corporation has received contracts valued at more than $2.1 billion with the US federal government and various states since December.
The Department of Defense (DOD) provided over $1.8 billion for the White House rollout. On Jan. 13 and Jan. 26, the government granted the lab two contracts, bringing over 354 million Chinese-made kits to American homes—roughly a third of the total.
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According to the White House, 60 million American families have ordered free testing kits through the government’s new website, covidtests.gov. According to the website, orders are usually shipped within 7 to 12 days.
The United States’ dependence on China to manufacture such testing services, two years after COVID-19 swept across the country, is a wake-up call, according to Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.).
“If we should have learned anything from this pandemic—it is that it’s imperative to break U.S. dependence on Chinese medical and PPE [personal protective equipment] supply chains,” he told the media.
The United States’ supply chain weaknesses were highlighted during the initial months of the pandemic, when frontline responders were unable to get crucial healthcare commodities and were forced to rely on overseas nations, mostly China, for assistance.
Wittman urged the president and members of Congress to serve as an example by advocating for medical equipment to be manufactured in the United States.
“We should be supporting hardworking Americans and businesses, not relying on unfriendly regimes,” he said.
“The fact that the United States is mass distributing Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 tests further highlights the need to bring back U.S. manufacturing for critical industries,” he told the press, describing it as a “national security issue as well as a national health security issue.”
The association between iHealth Labs and China was not revealed in the DOD agreement, nor has it been disclosed on iHealth Labs’ website.
The White House did not reply to a request for comment from the media. Andon and iHealth Labs have also been contacted for comment by them.
Andon had been renowned as a manufacturer of blood pressure monitors since it was founded in 1995 in China’s megacity of Tianjin. Until the pandemic, the company had been operating at a loss for seven years in a row.
iHealth Labs was created in 2010, the same year Andon went public in Shenzhen, and Andon holds a 70% share in the company. Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone maker, owns 20% of iHealth after investing $25 million in the company in 2014.
In November, Andon began mass-producing the self-test equipment on a commercial basis. Andon’s stock has risen roughly 14-fold since January 18 as a result of its success in the United States.
In November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Andon’s iHealth Labs emergency license to sell COVID-19 nasal swab testing kits in the US. The New York State Department of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have also placed orders worth a cumulative of $333 million with the lab.
According to Chinese media sources, California, Washington, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, and the District of Columbia also have placed orders.
Andon has previously been praised by Chinese authorities for its contribution to the nation’s pandemic-prevention initiatives. Andon contributed shipments to the United States, Italy, and Germany in 2020, after supplying body temperature monitors to Wuhan and other virus-affected towns.
Andon appealed into nationalistic emotions in a post on May 10, 2020, honoring the fourth “China Brand Day,” stating the company had been a “ambassador for Chinese brands” to convey a “high standard” of Chinese goods to the public.
Republican members of Congress have lately voiced dissatisfaction with the government’s acquisition of medical equipment made in China.
Upwards of 120 Republican legislators expressed dissatisfaction earlier in the month with needing to wear masks that were “made in China.” They voiced their “disbelief and outrage” that taxpayer funds are really being spent on Chinese-made masks when American options are accessible in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“China is perhaps the United States’ greatest geopolitical adversary, and its government is culpable in the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not a day goes by without new information showing the scale of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to hide and cover up the outbreak,” the lawmakers said in the letter. With the regime’s pandemic denial, persecution of whistleblowers, and ongoing attempts to obscure virus origin identification efforts, “it is inexcusable for taxpayer dollars to be spent in support of the Chinese economy,” they said.
Despite this, some Chinese official media seized on the story about the Chinese mask.
An anonymous article in the state-owned Global Times headlined “Chinese test kit, mask manufacturers still relied on to fill US supply gaps” said that it was a “striking sign of the prevalent use of China-made facial masks in the US.”
Masks made in China have “played an essential role in supplying Americans,” according to the report.