In the following is our translation of a report from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica with comments and notes [in brackets] by Vince Dhimos.
Another report on the same subject was published in Defense One but there was no mention that the supplies were scarce in virus-stricken Italy. Interestingly, though, the comments were very critical of the US for scarfing up these items urgently needed by the Italians.
Coronavirus, half a million swabs from a company in Brescia go to the United States
Products in the outbreak area of the epidemic in Italy would have sufficed for the needs of the whole North [of Italy]. The diagnostic kits were instead sold to the US and transported by military aircraft. The company: “everything is normal, there is no shortage.” Did anyone in our country know this?
by GIANLUCA DI FEO
March 19, 2020
The whole world says it's a war. And for the first time in history it seems to be everyone against everyone, without any alliances. Each nation thinks for itself, using every means to guarantee the winning weapons against the virus: swabs, masks, respirators. So the United States managed to buy in Brescia half a million kits to detect the infection. And they shipped them to Memphis in a military aircraft.
America celebrated on Wednesday the arrival of a load of swabs, just half a million of them. An impressive supply: in our country since the beginning of the epidemic, just over 100 thousand have been made. But that supply landed in the USA. It came from the American base in Aviano, not far from Pordenone. Yes, in Italy there was a colossal reserve of diagnostic tests, available a few tens of kilometres from the epicentre of Covid-19: tools that our regions are frantically hunting for to stem the spread of the disease but that they can’t be found.
The announcement of the transatlantic expedition was made on Instagram, together with a photo showing the hold of a four-engine Air Force C-17 Globemaster full of containers with kits. Then the post was removed. But the news found official confirmation in the words of the Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman. "There are multiple elements to take the test,” explained General Paul Friedrichs, of the central medical command. “The first are the swabs that are used to collect the samples from people, then there is the liquid for developing them. This is what we have brought from Italy." The general said the materials are produced in the US and abroad, without specifying where they were found. And he added: "This is a great example of how nations work together to ensure that global problems are solved."
And half a million tests have been produced in Italy. From a company in Brescia, the city that is currently at the forefront of the battle against the disease. Copan Diagnostics. Ambassador Lewis Einsenberg confirms this to La Repubblica: "We are delighted that the Italian company Copan Diagnostics continues to produce swabs for the Covid-19 tests in sufficient quantities to satisfy requests in Italy and sales abroad. The Italian private sector is helping save lives in the world. I congratulate you on this effort." And he specifies: "The United States will continue to purchase these pads from Italian companies according to its needs. The United States and Italy continue to work together in close collaboration."
The news is surprising. The Lombard company had enough swabs available for the needs of the entire North, but instead it was sold ovreseas. Did they beat us on the price? There is a wealth of information circulating about the US government's efforts to stock up against Covid-19. The White House, for example, would have offered very high sums to obtain the exclusive vaccine tested by the German CureVac laboratories: an operation blocked by a Berlin intervention followed by that of the European Union which has allocated 80 million to prevent the patent leak. In these hours, there are world auctions to buy even rising stock of masks and respirators at increasing prices: an economic challenge, in which the strongest wins. Like in war. But waged without any alliances. [Compare this with China, which is donating supplies and medical services].
At the beginning it was thought that the swabs came from American military bases. In Aviano there is a large deposit of medical materials, accumulated in case of a conflict. It's the Medical War Reserve Materiel of the 31st U.S. regiment: a video from last December shows a gigantic hangar full of components for field hospitals, diagnostic instruments and medicines. All ready to be boarded on planes and arrive anywhere in a few hours. Another escort is reportedly at Camp Darby, just outside Livorno, the largest arsenal located outside the States. Both strategic warehouses in the Pentagon documents are indicated, albeit at the last point of the priorities, as usable for "host nations." That is, Italy. But nothing has been made available to our country. Quoting Winston Churchill, in his book the legendary general Jim Mattis, former head of the Pentagon, wrote: "There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, fighting without allies," It was a critique of Donald Trump's foreign policy. A warning that also applies in the war against the virus.
But the reality is different