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Spain to replace 659,000 faulty rapid tests bought in China

Huawei might 'scale down' donation of masks after EU diplomacy head Borrell comments on Chinese 'struggle for influence'


28 March 2020 11:22 AM


ACN | Barcelona

Spain will replace some 659,000 faulty rapid tests bought in China, as health minister Salvador Illa announced on Friday.

"Some 659,000 rapid tests will be replaced for others matching the quality standards," he said after a cabinet meeting. Yet, for him, the incident "will not affect" the fight against covid-19 in Spain.

Illa sent "a message of calm" to the public, saying that the government has already ordered 5 million tests in other operations with Chinese suppliers.

According to Illa, the 659,000 faulty tests had been ordered to a regular supplier, who bought them to the Chinese company Bioeasy, a firm that according to the Chinese embassy in Spain did not have license to operate in China or has been included in the list of recommended suppliers by the Chinese government.

EU top diplomat prompts donation halt of Huawei

Yet, this has not been the latest controversy between Spanish politicians and the most populated country in the world.

Josep Borrell, the former Spanish foreign minister and now head of the EU diplomacy, warned that China supplying healthcare material was more a "struggle for influence" than a "politics of generosity."

“In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such."

"There is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor," he said, emphasizing the fact that it was at first Europe the one helping China and now roles have swapped.

"Armed with facts, we need to defend Europe against its detractors."

Yet, these comments have backfired the EU top diplomat, who is Catalan. The Chinese giant tech company Huawei would have "scaled down" the donation of masks to Europe, according to Euractiv.

"We will be putting an end to our mask donation program here in Europe," said an official for Huawei, according to the EU media outlet. "For us, this was never meant to have been a PR campaign."

Row between Catalonia and Spain over supplies

Elsewhere on Saturday, Spain received 1.2 million masks, which will be distributed by regions.

The distribution of healthcare material has been a matter of disagreement between the Spanish government, which goes for a centralized purchase, and the Catalan executive, advocating for a decentralized one.

According to the Catalan health minister Alba Vergés, 90% of the material reaching Catalan hospitals was bought by the executive in Barcelona, with the rest supplied by Spain – official Spanish cabinet figures show that 957,633 masks were sent to Catalonia between March 10 and March 26.

Vergés said that only on March 26, half a million masks bought by Catalonia reached the country – and added that the public system needs an average of one million masks a week.


  • Salvador Illa, Spanish health minister, speaking in a press conference in March, 2020 (by Andrea Zamorano)

  • Salvador Illa, Spanish health minister, speaking in a press conference in March, 2020 (by Andrea Zamorano)