Australian tycoon buys 10 million Chinese coronavirus test kits despite diplomatic row

WION Web Team
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia Published: Apr 30, 2020, 02:05 PM(IST)

A file photo of a coronavirus test.  Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The deal comes with Australia and China at loggerheads over the pandemic. Beijing has angrily dismissed Australian calls for an independent investigation into the spread of the disease from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

An Australian mining magnate has unveiled a deal to import 10 million coronavirus test kits from China to Australia, despite a bitter diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The deal comes with Australia and China at loggerheads over the pandemic. Beijing has angrily dismissed Australian calls for an independent investigation into the spread of the disease from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Andrew Forrest, head of mining giant Fortescue, on Wednesday said he had used contacts to secure an order for the test kits with Chinese genomics firm BGI Group at a significantly lower cost than from rival providers, amid fierce competition.

Australia, which has been one of the most successful countries in containing COVID-19, has so far carried out around 5,00,000 tests in a population of 25 million people.

Delivery of the new tests would dramatically improve the country’s track-and-trace programme and help build the kind of monitoring needed to reopen the country’s economy, said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador Down Under has threatened a trade boycott if calls for an investigation continued, leading to a public rebuke by Australian authorities.

Australia's vast mining industry is deeply reliant on Chinese business and China has depended on Australian resources to fuel its rapid economic and infrastructure development.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has piled pressure on China over the pandemic, waded into the dispute on Wednesday as he sarcastically said that Australia upset Beijing through its "temerity" to ask questions.

Just hours after the latest verbal volley between Beijing and Canberra, the Chinese consul general in the state of Victoria, Zhou Long, spoke at the announcement of the testing deal – calling it a tribute to the “friendship and the cooperation between our two countries”.

China had released information related to Covid-19 in an “open, transparent and responsible manner”, he said.

(with inputs from AFP)

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