More than 3,700 Swedes were erroneously told they had the CCP virus due to defects in testing kits made in China, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced on Aug. 25.
The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing kits, manufactured by Shenzhen-based genome sequencing company BGI Genomics, were unable to distinguish between very low and no viral genetic material, Swedish health authorities said in a statement.
“The supplier must adjust the performance that is required for this test to be used,” said Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the agency’s microbiology department. The findings, she said, illustrated again the importance of having quality control tests to detect such errors.
The incorrect results affected nine regions in the country in the 5-month span between March and mid-August, during which people who had mild or no symptoms at all received false positive outcomes.
The same kind of testing kits have been shipped to many countries other than Sweden, the agency said, adding that it has informed corresponding authorities in Europe and the World Health Organization.
The officials did not elaborate on how many tests were conducted using such testing kits, but said they are removing the false positive cases from their national virus tally and reaching out to the impacted individuals, who will be offered a free antibody test. The false results only marginally impacted the country’s virus statistics and did not change their overall assessment during the summer, the authorities said. All statistics after Aug. 15 remain accurate, the statement noted.
Sweden has reported a total of 86,891 infections and 5,814 deaths.
Two BGI group subsidiaries, Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI, came under U.S. Commerce Department sanctions on July 20 for allegedly conducting genetic analyses to further human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. The blacklist restricts the companies’ access to U.S. commodities and technologies.
In a statement on Aug. 26, BGI Genomics said that its “testing kits are relatively more sensitive and have received positive clinical evaluations to date.”
BGI distributes COVID-19 testing kits to more than 80 countries in the world, with a production capacity of around 2 million, according to its website.
Defective medical supplies from China, such as masks and testing kits, have previously drawn backlash from countries that received them, including Finland, Britain, Ireland, Canada, and Spain.