Were US diplomats in China asked to take anal swab tests for Covid-19? Beijing denies allegations
The US has accused China of making American diplomats undergo anal swab tests for coronavirus. According to media reports, China has reassured the US that the tests were done “in error”, and that diplomatic personnel were exempt from this specific type of testing.
Some workers had reportedly told the US Department of State that they had been subjected to anal tests. It is not known how many US diplomats may have had the test. A US state department spokesperson told VICE World News that it has “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 representative also said that the department “is committed to guaranteeing the safety and security of American diplomats and their families while preserving their dignity, consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as well as other relevant diplomatic law provisions.” China has, however, denied claims that it required US diplomats to undergo anal swab tests for coronavirus. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a briefing: “I checked with my colleagues. As far as I know, China has never asked US diplomats in China to conduct anal swab tests.”
Two kinds of tests are available for Covid-19 in the US: viral tests that tell a person if they have a current infection, and an antibody test that may indicate if an individual has had a past infection. To determine whether there is a current infection, the tests detect the disease by looking for traces of the virus’s genetic material on a sample most often collected via a nose or throat swab.
Anal swabs involve inserting a cotton swab, which is around 3 cm to 5cm, into the anus and gently rotating it. China has been using anal swab tests for some groups of people in the country, including those returning from abroad and those who live in high-risk areas, according to the Global Times, a state media outlet. Chinese researchers say that anal swabs could detect virus cases more accurately and such tests can avoid missing infections as virus traces are detectable for a longer time than the more common coronavirus tests used in the mouth and nose.
“Studies have shown the coronavirus lives longer in the anus or excrement than in upper body tracts, and for some silent carriers, the virus may be present in their throats for only three to five days, resulting in some tests providing false negative results, said Li Tongzeng, a deputy director in charge of infectious diseases at Beijing You’an Hospital,” stated the report.
Relations between the US and China grew tense under former president Donald Trump who has often referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”. While scientists and even the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has stated that the virus is not man-made, Trump said last year that the US is investigating allegations that Covid-19 may have originated in a lab. China has repeatedly denied these allegations.
When a journalist asked Trump last year, “And what gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” he said, “I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.” Trump added, “Whether they (China) made a mistake, or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one or did somebody do something on purpose? I don’t understand how traffic, how people weren’t allowed into the rest of China, but they were allowed into the rest of the world...that's a hard question for them to answer.”