The Chinese government has used anal swabs to test US diplomats for COVID-19 – but Beijing insisted to Washington that the butt checks were made “in error,” according to a report.
“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 rep told VICE World News on Wednesday.
Washington complained that the rather invasive procedure was undignified, according to the report.
The State spokesperson said Beijing had assured Washington that the tests were given “in error” — and that diplomats were exempt from the test, which was required for incoming travelers in some parts of China.
“We have instructed staff to decline this test if it is asked of them, as was done in the past,” the rep told VICE World News, which noted it was unclear how many diplomats or their family members had undergone the procedure.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday denied Beijing had even asked American diplomats to undergo the anal tests.
“To my knowledge…China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests,” Zhao told a daily news briefing in Beijing, Reuters reported.
In an email to Reuters, a State Department spokesperson said it was “committed to guaranteeing the safety and security of American diplomats and their families, while preserving their dignity.”
Officials in China have used anal swabs to test people it considers at high-risk of contracting the illness, including residents of neighborhoods with confirmed cases as well as some international travelers, according to AFP.
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.
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.
China’s National Health Commission said in an online post that in some cases, the deadly bug can be more easily detected in anal samples than in throat and nasal samples.
According to the commission’s instructions, the samples are collected by inserting a cotton swab about one to two inches into the rectum.
A traveler from Australia to China who was tested with anal swabs in September told VICE World News the procedure felt like having diarrhea.