As China’s COVID test kit orders surge globally, manufacturers try to meet demand

Luna Sun, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 11 2022 03:33 PM

China’s manufacturers of Covid-19 testing kits are racing to keep up with surging demand, both domestically and abroad, as the world grapples with a spike in cases caused by the highly infectious Omicron and Delta variants.

“We’ve hired more than 200 temp workers in the past two months to keep up with the robust amount of orders we got from Europe and Bangladesh,” said Zhang Shuwen, general manager at Nanjing-based Liming Bio, which makes and exports the testing kits.

Orders at Zhang’s company have been on the rise since the latter half of last year, just as the Delta variant started to rapidly spread throughout the world, and he said there are now more temporary workers at his company than permanent staff.

The more recent Omicron variant has only intensified demand for coronavirus testing kits.

Zhang speculated that Chinese companies may be supplying roughly half of the coronavirus test kits being used around the world.

His company bought new machines and equipment last year in response to the increased orders it received as the Delta variant spread.

“Orders have certainly doubled from two months ago,” Zhang said. “My company has been handling that [demand] by increasing production capacity, recruiting more workers and installing new machines.

“We bought new machines and equipment last June, and now basically the whole company works more than 10 hours a day, until 9pm, to meet demand.”

On the home front, the rise of the Omicron variant has seen China battling some of its worst coronavirus outbreaks.

China has been on high alert for coronavirus outbreaks, especially in the lead-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics next month. Mass testing has been ordered in places with cases in the single digits.

Zhang said his company is relatively small compared with listed companies, but they have all seen a large increase in orders for testing kits, resulting in the need to rapidly hire more temporary workers.

According to a report published on Monday by the Securities Times, a Chinese financial publication, makers of Covid-19 test kits in Zhejiang province have been recruiting workers to work long hours amid surging demand.

Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech, one of the world’s largest point-of-care test manufacturers, hired 2,500 temporary workers on a single day last week via a human resources agency, according to the Securities Times report. It added that the company could have about 15,000 temporary workers on day and night shifts – more than 10 times the number of its permanent staff.

Hangzhou Alltest Biotech and Assure Tech, both based in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, also ramped up their hiring of temporary workers, according to the Securities Times.

Multiple rounds of mass testing, involving tens of millions of people, have been a common occurrence since the onset of the pandemic in China, as leaders maintain stringent control measures under a zero-tolerance strategy.

After the city of Tianjin reported two local Omicron cases over the weekend, authorities immediately ordered mass testing in the city of 14 million people.

Xian, a megacity with 13 million people, has gone through seven rounds of mass testing since December 9.

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