Saudi Arabia and China sign $265m deal to fight coronavirus

China will supply Saudi Arabia with 9 million coronavirus test kits, 500 specialist technicians and six test laboratories.

By Arab News | 27 Apr 2020

JEDDAH: China will supply Saudi Arabia with 9 million coronavirus test kits, 500 specialist technicians and six test laboratories in a $265 million deal signed on Sunday.

The agreement between the Kingdom’s National Unified Procurement Company (NUPCO) and China’s Beijing Genome Institute will enable the Kingdom to conduct up to 60,000 tests a day, some of them in a unique inflatable mobile laboratory. 

Chinese specialists will also train Saudi staff in testing for COVID-19, and assess their competence.

“The large number of tests provided for in this agreement clearly indicates that the Kingdom is in a race against time to diagnose cases and to work to isolate them in a way that reduces the risks from this pandemic,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, chairman of the Saudi negotiating and purchasing committee.

Al-Rabeeah and Chinese Ambassador Chen Weiqing witnessed the signing of the agreement between the two companies.

“Despite the distance between the two countries, the genes of solidarity, cooperation, friendship and mutual assistance are inherited in the traditional culture of both peoples, which makes the sincere friendship between the two peoples even stronger in these special and difficult times,” Ambassador  Weiqing said.

The equipment will include the Huo Yan laboratory, a mobile modular air dome structure constructed to support screening and detection capabilities. 

The inflatable lab can be transported by air as standard freight on any commercial passenger plane.

“The Huo Yan laboratory is an important step toward cooperation between our two countries in fighting against the pandemic,” the ambassador said.

Saudi Arabia has also purchased test kits and chemical reagents from the US, Switzerland and South Korea. Together with the Chinese agreement, they will enable Saudi Arabia to test 14.5 million people, more than 40 percent of the population.

“Viruses know no borders, and it takes solidarity and cooperation to defeat a pandemic. As the Chinese old saying goes, you present me with fruits, and I would reward you with a jade,” the ambassador said.

Saudi Arabia recorded 1,223 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, increasing the total to 17,522, and the death toll rose by three to 139. Globally, the virus has infected nearly 3 million people and the disease has killed more than 206,000.