Blue House backtracks on virus test kit export claims

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Blue House backtracks on virus test kit export claims

The Blue House retracted its announcement that Korea has successfully exported new coronavirus test kits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based on President Moon Jae-in’s telephone conversation with the Middle Eastern country’s leader, after a media report raised questions about the claim.

Presidential Spokesman Kang Min-seok released a press briefing Tuesday afternoon that Korea exported 51,000 coronavirus diagnostic kits to the United Arab Emirates. He said the deal was made “urgently,” and marked the first case of exporting coronavirus test kits.

Kang stressed that the export was the outcome of President Moon’s telephone conversation on March 5 with UAE leader, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. “It shows the right direction of ‘coronavirus diplomacy’ when international cooperation is urgent,” he said.

“The UAE leader praised Korea’s sophisticated and active disinfection measures and abilities and expressed deep trust,” Kang said. He said the UAE made an urgent request on March 7 through a diplomatic channel to purchase test kits, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently researched a manufacturer and Noble Biosciences exported 51,000 test kits over the weekend.

Shortly after Kang’s announcement, the Electronic Times, a newspaper that specializes in the information and technology industry, reported that the company exported sample collection kits, not test kits. Sample collection kits are used to swab and store specimens collected from suspected patients for transportation to laboratories.

Following the report, a senior Blue House official held a press briefing later in the evening to clarify the errors. “The test kits contain two parts. One is the sample collection kit and the other is the test kit. You need both for diagnosis,” he said.

He admitted that what Korea exported to the United Arab Emirates was the sample collection kits. “We said we exported test kits, but they were not a complete package,” he said.

The Blue House continued to make ambiguous statements about exports. The official said a total of 17 countries have asked Korea to supply coronavirus test kits. Among them are three Southeast Asian countries, four Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, two European countries, two Latin American nations and two from Africa, he said.

“We believe Korea exported both specimen collection kits and test kits to the 16 countries other than the United Arab Emirates,” he said. “But we do not have accurate details.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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