As Chinese authorities struggle to contain new Covid-19 outbreaks ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Beijing has added another weapon to its arsenal of border curbs, mass testing and hard lockdowns: anal swabs.
“Chinese state media outlets introduced the new protocol in recent days, prompting widespread discussion and some outrage,” reports The Washington Post. “Some Chinese doctors say the science is there. Recovering patients, they say, have continued to test positive through samples from the lower digestive tract days after nasal and throat swabs came back negative. Yet for many, it seemed a step too far in government intrusions after a year and counting of a dignity-eroding pandemic.”
“Everyone involved will be so embarrassed,” one user in Guangdong province said on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, on Wednesday.
In a Weibo poll, 80 percent of respondents said they “could not accept” the invasive method.
Even Chinese doctors in support of the new tests said the method’s inconvenience meant it only made sense to use in select groups, such as at quarantine centers.
“If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients,” Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You’an Hospital, said on state-run broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. “But of course considering that collecting anal swabs is not as convenient as throat swabs, at the moment only key groups such as those in quarantine receive both.”
State-run channel CCTV reported that the tests are reserved for high-risk cases, although there does not appear to be a coordinated policy for them, with reports of surprise tests for some individuals.
This includes passengers arriving in Beijing, residents of quarantine centers and, according to local officials, a group of more than 1,000 schoolchildren and teachers believed to be exposed to the virus.
The test involves inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 1-2 inches into the rectum, which will then be tested for the virus.
Anal swab tests could be more accurate than nose or throat tests, said Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, in an interview with state media.