China tells factories to prioritize Covid government orders

China’s local governments have begun seizing rapid test kits, face masks and cold and fever medicines produced in factories in their regions, in a battle for supplies to deal with a spate of coronavirus infections that followed the relaxation of the country’s zero-Covid containment. politics.

Ten Chinese companies, which make everything from ibuprofen to Covid-19 test kits, have issued statements in recent days or confirmed in interviews that all their output would be sent to government groups rather than fulfill private orders.

“It’s a desperate situation, but it’s every man for himself,” said an official in the eastern city of Nanjing, where four producers of rapid Covid-19 test kits have been asked to report their production to the government and prioritize local customers.

“We waited so long for the unbundling of covid controls, but the relaxation was so sudden that local governments, health systems and supply chain companies were not ready,” he said.

Some areas, like PorcelainChina’s nimble manufacturing hub, the eastern province of Zhejiang, is better equipped than other inland provinces to deal with the situation.

Xu Xiaoyue, deputy director of the Zhejiang economic department, said last week that 22 medical providers in the region were operating their production lines under government supervision to increase production and solve problems, adding that this had helped boost production. of antigen test kits in the province. by 76 percent in one week.

Orient Gene Biotech, a test kit producer in the city of Huzhou, is a company supervised by government monitors: “The local government has sent officials to our factories to supervise production, making sure it runs smoothly and that the products stay online with your centralized data. deployment,” said a sales representative who asked to be identified by his name, Joey.

All the company’s production had been requisitioned. “I’m sorry, but we have to say no. [to new orders],” he said.

Neighboring Chaomei Daily Chemicals received a demand from its city government on Dec. 14 to prepare production of 1.65 million masks for “Zhejiang stockpiling plan by 2022,” according to a notice provided to the Financial Times by an employee. of the company

The next day, a major ibuprofen producer in Fujian province, just south of Zhejiang, notified customers that it would prioritize supplying local orders. Officials have “clearly requested that we comply with the market demand in Fujian as soon as possible,” said a notice Pacific Pharmaceutical issued to customers and was seen by the FT.

The shortage of rapid Covid-19 test kits has become particularly acute as consumer demand for at-home tests increases. China’s National Medical Products Administration has authorized the sale of kits from 42 manufacturers, but manufacturers are concentrated in a few regions, leaving most provinces without a local supplier.

Zhejiang’s strategy has helped ensure batches of new test kits reach local pharmacies. The provincial capital Hangzhou announced the distribution of kits to 2,400 local pharmacies on Monday, but residents said they are still finding it difficult to get hold of any.

“I went through six pharmacies and waited half an hour” to get five test kits, said Qiu Yao, a tech worker in the city.

Qiu said he gave two to an old man who had come too late to buy them. “He clearly was very sick and had a fever,” he said. “I am saving the rest for emergencies as I need positive results to apply for sick leave.”

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