International row reignited over China's use of anal COVID swabs for foreigners

March 02, 2021

An international row has reignited over the use of anal COVID swab tests for foreigners in China.

Just a week after US diplomats complained about being subjected to the process, Tokyo has now also called on Beijing to stop doing the same to its Japanese citizens.

Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said his government had received reports from the Japanese embassy in China of citizens who had been required to take the COVID swab tests which they said had caused them "great psychological pain".

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China's foreign ministry was forced to deny it had required US diplomats to undergo anal swab tests after US media reported they had raised the matter with officials at the American State Department.

Its spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing in Beijing that one such test may have been given in error but he added: "To my knowledge...China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests."

A US State Department representative responded by saying it was "committed to guaranteeing the safety and security
of American diplomats and their families, while preserving their dignity".

It is not known how many Japanese delegates had been asked to have an anal swab test.

Some Chinese cities used anal samples to detect potential COVID-19 infections amid stepped-up screening during a spate of regional outbreaks ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

Li Tongzeng, a respiratory diseases doctor in Beijing, told state television the reason they were using anal swabs was that the procedure was better at avoiding missing an infection, as virus traces in faecal samples or anal swabs remain detectable for a longer time than in those from the respiratory tract.

Beijing has so far not responded to Mr Kato's request.

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