American diplomats, who are stationed in China, said that they were made to take anal swabs instead of respiratory swab, to detect the presence of the coronavirus. Washington said that this procedure was undignified. It asked staff to refuse to take the test.
A U.S. person, who is conversant about the matter, told vice that the State Department had not agreed to this type of testing. The person also said that they had directly brought this undignified method of testing to the notice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when staff complained that they were subject to such tests.
Zao Lijian, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a daily briefing in Beijing, denied the claims made by U.S. officials and said that it has no knowledge of such tests being carried out on U.S. officials. He said that China had never required that U.S. diplomatic staff, stationed in the country, should be subjected to anal swab tests.
A representative from the State Department said that it would guarantee that American diplomats and their families would remain safe and secure in the country, while “preserving their dignity.”
Beijing claims that the test was necessary for incoming travelers in specific areas of China. It began using anal swabs to test persons for the coronavirus more often after a nine-year old boy was found to have contacted the virus in January. Authorities say that within days, over three million Chinese, living in three specific districts, were tested to avoid the risk of high transmission.
A Chinese disease control expert said that the anal swab test was used in key groups at quarantine centers.
Experts differ on the efficacy of the anal swab test. While it is a fact that the viral load may be higher and traces can be found in feces for longer periods of time, there is no evidence that shows that it gets transmitted through the digestive system, according to Yang Zhanqui, a deputy director at Wuhan University.
Yang also told state media Global Times that nasal and throat swabs are the most effective ways to test the coronavirus. COVID-19 is contracted via the respiratory tract and not via the digestive system.