US officials warned Nevada not to use donated Chinese COVID-19 test: report
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that U.S. officials warned the state of Nevada against using Chinese-made COVID-19 tests that were donated by the United Arab Emirates.
The warnings were made due to concerns regarding the accuracy of the tests, patient privacy and involvement by the Chinese government.
The office of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) instructed a Nevada hospital not to use 250,000 donated test kits after officials rejected a laboratory deal, according to emails obtained by the AP, a decision made after the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department notified the governor’s office of the concerns.
Nevada has recently garnered some attention after a 25-year-old Nevada man was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus twice, experiencing more severe symptoms the second time.
Unease about the test kits appear by officials to be centered around the Shenzhen-based company the BGI Group. BGI and Emirati company Group 42 (G42) partnered together to create a rapid-testing system in the UAE. According to an email sent to the AP in response to inquiries, BGI claims that G42 made the donations without informing the Chinese company.
Jim Murren, who heads Nevada’s COVID-19 response, told the AP that the CEO of G42, Peng Xiao, reached out to him offering to set up a “turnkey” laboratory capable of analyzing 10,000 to 50,000 coronavirus tests a day. BGI has set up multiple such labs in several different countries and Chinese cities.
In an email to Sisolak’s office, Murren wrote the offer of establishing a lab was seen by G42 as “a public service” and a “future investment opportunity for them.” Soon after the offer was made known, U.S. government officials shared their worries that such a lab could be a means for spying by the Chinese government.
The Washington Post reported in July that California had rejected a similar offer from BGI and G42, despite the surging number of cases the state was experiencing at the time.
Despite rising suspicions, BGI testing kits are approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use and in some labs but it has no access to patient samples or data.
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