Anal Swabs Used On U.S. Diplomats, Reports Say. China Denies.
anal swab
Alvaro Medina Jurado/Getty Images

Following reports that American diplomats had been given anal swab tests “in error” in China to detect if they had contracted COVID-19, China issued a statement Thursday denying the claim.

Vice and The Washington Post reported that even though diplomats were exempt from the procedure, anal swab tests had still been administered to the diplomatic staff.

The claim prompted foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian to say at a press briefing on Thursday, “I have checked with my colleagues. As far as I know, China has never required U.S. diplomatic staff in the country to take anal swab tests.”

Business Insider notes that the test “involves a cotton-tipped swab inserted around 3 cm to 5 cm — 1 to 2 inches — into the rectum, with the swab then tested in a lab in the same way a polymerase-chain-reaction coronavirus test taken from the nose or throat is.”

On Wednesday, Vice reported:

The Chinese government has promised to stop using anal swabs on American diplomats to test for COVID-19 after Washington complained that the practice was undignified, the U.S. State Department 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,” a State Department spokesperson told VICE World New son Wednesday. The spokesperson said Beijing had assured Washington that the test was given “in error” and that diplomatic personnel were exempt from the test, which was mandatory for incoming travelers in some parts of China.

“The Washington Post reported last week that some U.S. personnel had told the department they had been subjected to the anal tests,” Yahoo reported on Thursday.

“Tests using anal swabs can avoid missing infections as viral traces in fecal samples or anal swabs could remain detectable for longer periods than in those from the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a respiratory diseases doctor in Beijing, told state TV recently,” the New York Post reported. “Stool tests also may be more effective in detecting infections in kids as their waste carries a higher viral load than adults, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said in a paper published last year.”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization announced that it had discovered that 92 people were hospitalized with Covid-19-like symptoms in October 2019 in the same province that contains Wuhan, two months before the Chinese government had previously acknowledged the disease was identified, The Wall Street Journal reported. Those 92 subjects either contracted pneumonia or other symptoms similar to COVID-19.

“China’s disclosures to the WHO raise questions about the possibility that Covid-19 — which has now killed more than 2.3 million people— was already spreading in China as far back as October 2019 and that earlier detection could have helped contain the outbreak before it became a global pandemic,” the Journal reported, adding, “During the WHO delegation’s visit, investigators said they received medical records from Chinese authorities related to about 92 cases of people from the 233 institutions canvassed by Chinese authorities across Hubei. All 92 had suffered from pneumonia or other Covid-19-like symptoms. Chinese authorities subjected those patients to antibody tests in recent months.”

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