The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the degree to which the U.S. and other nations have become dependent upon a reliable and efficiently operating global supply chain of medical supplies that protect first responders and save lives. This includes personal protective equipment (PPE) that is essential to protecting the health and safety of EMTs, doctors, nurses, and other front-line personnel.
Despite the presence of various domestic companies with manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that sell N95 masks, most masks are still manufactured abroad, with about 50% of them made in China.
In early April, the Netherlands requested to return some 600,000 face masks that nation had bought from China – masks that were found to fit improperly and have defective filters. The nation of Australia also captured about 800,000 counterfeit or defective masks from China.
Within the last several weeks, medical authorities and scientists in countries such as Great Britain, Spain, Turkey, Slovakia, and the Check Republic, have expressed their concerns about defective antibody or antigen coronavirus tests they purchased from Chinese firms. As a result, many of these purchases resulted in millions of dollars lost.
Government officials of the California State Council news briefing announced on March 12 that authorities had captured 370,000 fake or defective disinfectants and other products designed for addressing the coronavirus epidemic along with 80 million faulty or counterfeit masks during the month of February.
In some instances, buyers purchased defective masks online as part of a donation to Wuhan other cities, only to discover later that medical personnel were unable to use the masks.
Another ongoing problem involves middlemen in the PPE marketplace. Many longtime sourcing agents and experienced distributors have now shifted into PPE. A number of factories in China have also modified their production processes to manufacture PPE products under encouragement or direction from the government, even though they possess insufficient capacity and proper quality control measures to do so. Reportedly, China is attempting to deal with poor quality PPE manufacturers, even threatening those who generate subpar quality medical products with life imprisonment.
China’s loss of credibility in the PPE market
Chinese diplomats and public relations efforts have attempted to separate the companies selling defective medical products from the government itself and are emphasizing the responsibility of the buyer in making these purchases.
In a recent news briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “We want to remind everyone to double-check the instructions for use to make sure what they purchase can serve their intended purposes and avoid making mistakes in a rush.”
However, this statement begs the question of how purchasers can take responsibility for a large volume of faulty PPE products coming from Chinese suppliers, and the lack of quality control and poor business practices that allow the distribution of such defective supplies.
COVID-19 has clearly exposed the USA’s and the world’s dependence on China and its manufacturers, particularly in the area of personal protective equipment.
How nations will respond after the pandemic comes to an end to modify and diversify supply chains from mainland China is yet to be fully known.
At Mezrano Law Firm, our Alabama product liability attorneys understand the devastation that injuries resulting from a defective product, including defective personal protective equipment and other medical supplies can cause. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury from faulty PPE equipment, we are here to fight for the compensation you deserve. To set up a free consultation, give us a call today at 205.206.6300, or leave us a message through our contact form. We offer our services to residents of Mobile, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Florence, Montgomery, and Gadsden.