Press review

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Spanish government bought tests, masks from unlicensed, random companies

Country : Europe, Spain, China

Keywords :
MADRID, 24 Apr (APM) - The Spanish government has bought defective, inefficient Covid-19 tests and masks from unlicensed companies and firms whose main activity was cosmetics, it was widely reported on Thursday.
On Wednesday, daily newspaper El País carried a story saying that the government has spent at least €350.3 million in healthcare products.
This is the first time that the government has offered information about these purchases, it said. Also, the government has identified the companies which it bought from, including those which sold defective tests and masks.
On Friday, the newspaper carries a follow-up story saying that the €1 billion fund devoted to buy these products has already been spent.
Financial newspaper El Economista noted that it has taken a whole month to obtain information about those purchases, "most of them from companies which have little to do with healthcare". This practice casts a shadow over health minister Salvador Illa, who is a philosophy professor himself, the financial added. (APMHE 65803)
The list of companies includes gypsum manufacturers, food and cosmetics companies which, in this scenario, operate as distributors. A total of 850 assisted breathing machines were bought via a Basque firm specialised in debugging databases. The government paid €15.4 millions in advance for that purchase, El Economista reported.
Hospitals in Madrid ran out of these devices when Patricia Lacruz, head of pharmaceutical services at the health ministry, "went shopping" for them and bought 144 from Madrid-based Hyperin Group, which manufactures gyspsum for €3.3 million and the company. However, Hyperin offered different devices which were not what the hospital needed, the financial noted.
Similar fiascos have occurred with masks provided to healthcare workers, which were not properly protected from the infection while taking care of patients amid the pandemic, daily newspaper El Mundo reported.

Madrid region follows government strategy, ditches transparency amid pandemic

Madrid region, where the conservative People's Party (PP) is in office, has decided to suspend access to public data via its transparency website, just as the national government did when it enforced the state of alarm amid the Covid-19 pandemic, financial newspaper El Economista reported on Thursday.
PP representatives criticised the government's move over recent days. Its president, Pablo Casado, recently said: "The power we have granted [to the government] must come with efficacy and transparency. One thing is trying to contain the pandemic and a very different one is locking democracy down, including constitutional freedom and legitimate criticism from the opposition, the media or citizens via social media."
Castilla y León region, where PP is also in office, is providing information and answering journalists' requests, El Economista clarified.
The financial quoted a report by AccessInfo organisation as warning that many European countries have suspended the normal deadlines for authorities to respond to information requests, often as part of emergency regulation amid the pandemic.
Helen Darbishire, AccesInfo executive director, said: "The right to information is essential to fight the pandemic and guarantee a fair recovery, because it allows citizens to follow the decision-making process, even at EU level, to know what is going on and to participate in the debate in an informed manner."
The Council of Europe does respect deadlines to met despite Covid-19, El Economista noted.
Transparency is key in this time, all agencies and governments should follow the council's lead, Darbishire added.

Big pharma pursue Covid-19 vaccine, treatment

Chinese, U.S. and Swiss companies have entered the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine or find a treatment to reduce mortality in infected patients, financial newspaper Cinco Días reported on Monday.
Big firms such as Novartis, Roche, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson are facing competition from Chinese companies and biotechs like Gilead to control the disease and alleviate the restrictive measures imposed on the population. Manufacturing of effective Covid-19 tests are also key, Cinco Días noted.
The story mentioned China's CanSino Biologics, Gilead (called "the company of the hour"), Abbott ("the experts seducer"), Roche, Translate Bio, Aker Biosciences, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (with their vaccine candidate) and Pfizer. Novacyt is referred to as "the clear winner in the stock market". Spain's Grifols was mentioned at the end.
In an unrelated Saturday story, financial Expansión reported that Grifols' general assembly had been suspended due to the pandemic.
On Friday, daily newspapers El País and ABC report that a trial of Gilead's remdesivir has been halted. (APMHE 66974)

Roche's Schwan calls some Covid-19 tests 'a disaster'

Roche chief executive Severin Schwan has exposed some companies selling ineffective Covid-19 tests, which he called "a disaster" at a streamed conference to present the company's Q1 results.
Roche plans to have its SARS-CoV-2 test available in May. He said that, as part of the development of its own test, the company studied some of the available products and rejected them because they did not offer reliability to determine whether a person had at some point been infected, the financial reported.
The newspaper quoted him as asking whether it is "ethically questionable to launch this kind of products".
Daily newspaper 20 Minutos, financial newspaper El Economista, Europa Press agency and medical journal Acta Sanitaria carried stories about the company's Q1 results. (APMHE 67036)
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