April 25, 2020 / 3:23 PM / a month ago

China eases restrictions on exports of some coronavirus equipment

(This April 26 story has been refiled to correct spelling of commerce ministry official’s first name in paragraph four)

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is dropping a requirement that a number of key virus care products get domestic regulatory approval before export, as long as they are approved in the importing countries, the commerce ministry said on Saturday.

China had been stipulating such extra approval at home since the end of March after several European countries complained that Chinese-made test kits were inaccurate, in effect hampering many firms’ efforts to supply global efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.

The new ruling applies to products such as coronavirus tests, medical masks, protective suits, infrared thermometers and ventilators.

Products with overseas approval or registration, after relevant verification by a trade group authorized by the commerce ministry, will be allowed for export, Li Xingqian, an official at China’s commerce ministry, said on Sunday during a media briefing.

Zhang Shuwen, the CEO of Liming Bio-products, a biotech firm offering coronavirus tests targeting the overseas market, said he believes the new rule is a “wise” revision to the previous one.

“It’s wrong to have a one-size-fits-all policy,” Zhang said. “Each country may have different criteria for medicines and medical devices. The priority is to meet the requirement in the countries where the product will be sold, instead of where the product is made.”

The previous ban vexed medical device firms in the cities of Hangzhou and Shenzhen, which tried to seek help from local governments, Zhang added.

Many countries around the world have been scrambling to buy or make enough personal protective equipment for medical staff and care workers at risk of infection, and also tests to trace contagion and identify people who can leave quarantine.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Shanghai Newsroom and Se Young Lee; Editing by Gareth Jones, Kevin Liffey and Kim Coghill

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