CHINA ordered US diplomats to undergo ANAL swab tests for Covid sparking fury with the State Department.
Beijing has denied the claims but Washington has blasted the tests as “undignified” .
Its is alleged the diplomats were forced to undergo the swabs due to an administrative error, Vice reports.
A spokesperson said: “The State Department never agreed to this kind of testing and protested directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when we learned that some staff were subject to it.”
“We have instructed staff to decline this test if it is asked of them, as was done in the past,” they said.
Beijing promised Washington the anal swab was given in error as diplomatic personnel were exempt from the test, which is mandatory for arrivals in some parts of China.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, dismissed the claims saying, “To my knowledge… China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests.”
A State Department spokesperson said they remained devoted to protecting the “dignity” of American officials and their families, as is statute under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The number of diplomats who allegedly received the swab is unclear.
In areas that saw large localised outbreaks, some Chinese cities began using anal swab tests to collect samples, as some experts believe it is a more accurate way of testing.
Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, told state broadcaster CCTV the swab “can increase the detection rate of infected people” because traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than the respiratory tract.
The news of the practice quickly began circulating online, which left social media users and tourists squirming at the thought.
The anal swab test involves inserting a cotton swab three to five centimetres into the anus and gently rotating it several times.
Similarly to the nasal method, the swab is removed and securely placed into a sample container.
The whole procedure is said to take about 10 seconds, according to China’s National Health Commission.
In January, after an outbreak amongst teachers, staff, and students at a primary school in Beijing, a city official said that over 1,000 swabs were taken.
Infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja told Health she worries “such messages may discourage people from getting tested”. She said, “For most purposes, including screening asymptomatic individuals, nasal or saliva samples are sufficient.”
The anal swabs are largely regarded as a success in China, particularly when testing groups in quarantine centres, but will not be used on a broad scale as the routine is “not convenient”.
In a paper published last year, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that stool tests may be more effective than respiratory tests in identifying coronavirus infections in children and infants.
This is because youngsters tend to carry a higher viral load in their stool than adults.