One of the country’s richest men has acquired 10 million coronavirus tests for the Australian public.
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his Minderoo Foundation‘s work will dramatically expand Australia’s testing capacity, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
“To put that in context, we have just completed over the last 2.5 months 500,000 tests and a little bit more.
“So this will multiply our tests between now and the end of the year by almost 20 fold.”
Mr Forrest spent $320 million on the tests, which will be repaid by the Australian government.
Andrew and wife Nicola Forrest “have been a bridge” between the Australian government and private suppliers, Mr Hunt said.
“Because of today we can now go even further and be one of the first countries to emerge from this,” Mr Hunt said.
“We can never make a false promise but we can prepare, which has allowed us to be where we are and we can prepare for the future which will allow us to return to the life which we so much love and value as Australians.
“Today is a hugely important step on that road.”
Mr Forrest said every country in the world was searching for the machines needed to test coronavirus.
He said every single machine acquired by Minderoo Foundation was currently in Australia.
The maker of the tests resisted “much, much higher bids” in order to sell 10 million coronavirus tests to Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation.
Mr Forrest said BGI, or Beijing Genomics Institute, made a deal to buy the testing equipment for $320 million.
“The Minderoo Foundation and BGI received sophisticated coercion to interrupt the relationship,” Mr Forrest said.
“We also had offers from other countries much higher than I had agreed with Chairman Wang of BGI in US dollars, and I’m talking much, much higher.
“Chairman Wang and BGI kept to their word and resisted that very clear temptation of the businessman to make a much bigger profit and maintain the integrity of my relationship, and I am very grateful for that.”
The tests will be rolled out across the country for much of the population to be checked for COVID-19.
“Now that we have them, I would like to pass that challenge on to each state and territory leader, premier, this ball is now in your court,” Mr Forrest said.
The challenge now is to test many, many people to ensure the virus is not in the community in asymptomatic cases.
“To elucidate the virus, to show it up and to free your populations and let’s get back to work,” he said.
China’s consul-general to Victoria Long Zhou said the deal was a “major step forward” between the two countries.
“China has attached great importance to international health cooperation,” he told reporters in Melbourne today.
“China very much appreciates and thankful to the compassion, support and sympathy of the Australian people to towards the Chinese people in our fight against the virus and vice versa, we are also doing everything possible to help Australia.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the virus knows no ideology, border or race.”
As the former CEO of Fortescue Metals, Mr Forrest is one of Australia’s richest men.
The Perth businessman also owns many cattle stations as well as the rugby team the Western Force.
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