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China forcing anal swab COVID tests on many foreign travelers

Coronavirus quarantine (leo2014/Pixabay)
March 05, 2021

China has made its headline-grabbing anal swab test mandatory for many foreign travelers arriving in several major cities in the country, according to Chinese state media on Tuesday.

China’s Global Times reported several Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and the port city of Qingdao, are requiring the invasive anal swab tests in a wide range of cases. Global Times reported the test entails inserting a cotton swab from three to five centimeters long (about one to two inches) and rotating it for 10 seconds.

Chinese medical workers will also test travelers with the nose and throat swabs on the third and seventh day after arrival and use the anal swab test on the 14th and 21st day after arriving in Beijing.

The expanded use of the tests has sparked a backlash from foreign visitors. The Japanese Embassy in China complained that the anal swab tests have caused psychological pain to its officials and have asked China to reevaluate the practice.

Last week, U.S. State Department employees also raised complaints of being subjected to the anal swab test upon arriving in China, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, denied the allegation.

“To my knowledge…China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests,” Zhao said.

Global Times reported that all general international travelers arriving in Beijing have to be tested by anal swab, as well as nasal swab and environmental sample testing.

An employee of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control told Global Times Travelers to Shanghai who test positive upon arrival or exhibit symptoms, such as diarrhea, must also take the anal test. The tests are also mandatory for all travelers onboard a plane with five or more people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and for all travelers from regions that China has deemed rife with the virus.

The Global Times previously announced an increased use of the anal swab tests in China after a Chinese study determined anal swab testing was “optimal” when evaluating hospitalized patients before discharge.

“Intriguingly, SARS-CoV-2 detection was positive in the anal swab of two patients and negative in throat swab and sputum samples,” they wrote. “We propose anal swabs as the potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection for evaluation of hospital discharge of covid-19 patients.”

Lu Hongzhou, an expert from the Public Health Clinical Center affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai said the anal swab test could be substituted for a stool sample test for travelers quarantining in their hotel rooms.