BEIJING – China has started using anal swabs to test those it considers at high risk of contracting COVID-19, state television reported, social media users and travelers squirming because of the the invasive procedure which doctors say may be more effective at detecting the virus.
Authorities took anal swabs from residents of neighborhoods with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Beijing last week, CCTV broadcaster said, while those in designated quarantine facilities also suffered the test.
Small localized outbreaks in recent weeks have seen several cities in northern China isolated from the rest of the country and have sparked mass testing campaigns – which so far have mostly been carried out using throat swabs and nose.
But the anal swab method “may increase the detection rate of infected people” because traces of the virus persist longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, said Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor at You’an Hospital. from Beijing, to CCTV.
Users of the popular Twitter-like social media platform Weibo in China responded to the method with a mixture of glee and horror.
“I was very lucky to return to China earlier,” wrote one user.
“Mild evil, but extreme humiliation,” said another, using a laughing emoticon.
Others who had undergone the procedure rang with black humor.
“I had two anal swabs, every time I did one I had to do a throat swab afterwards – I was so scared the nurse would forget to use a new tampon,” one joked. Weibo user.
CCTV said on Sunday that anal swabs would not be used as widely as other methods because the technique was “not practical.”
As cases increase around the world, China has imposed more stringent requirements on international arrivals in an effort to keep domestic transmission close to zero.
The country has also tightened restrictions nationwide, with Beijing announcing that people in medium and high risk areas will be barred from the city from Thursday to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus during the Lunar New Year period.
Meanwhile, arrivals to the country must have multiple negative test results and be quarantined for at least 14 days at a designated hotel upon arrival, with many cities and regions placing additional home observation requirements.