If you were thinking about travelling to China anytime soon, this might make you think again…

Anal Covid swabs have now been made compulsory for everyone flying into China from overseas.

The decision has gone ahead, despite protests about the ‘humiliating’ procedure.

Photos of the test started doing the rounds on Chinese social media back in January.

Taking the test involves using a sterile cotton swab, much like a very long ear bud. It has to be inserted 3cm to 5cm into the anus before being gently rotated around to take the sample.

Beijing experts are insisting it is a more accurate way of testing compared to the traditional method.

Most other tests used around the world involve samples being taken from the nose and throat.

However, according to Chinese doctors, these anal tests can ensure infections are spotted. They report that coronavirus traces are detectable in the anus for longer than in the respiratory tract.

Some visitors from overseas have already had the anal swab as a condition for them to be allowed to leave quarantine.

Complaints

The Japanese government is just one of the countries protesting. They complained about the procedure this week, saying its citizens had been subjected to ‘great psychological pain’.

The US has also allegedly complained. Vice reported a US State Department official as saying U.S. diplomats had complained after receiving the tests last month. The Chinese foreign ministry rejected this claim.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denied the claims on Thursday. Lijian told a press conference that “China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests”.

Beijing is now using the swab tests  at Beijing and Shanghai airports. However, some compromises appear to be acceptable. South Korean visitors can now submit stool samples instead of ‘Chinese authorities taking them directly’. That’s according to Choi Young-Sam, a spokesman of the South Korean foreign ministry.

Experts Disagree

Jin Dongyan, a virology professor at the University of Hong Kong has cast doubts on how effective the anal swabs actually are.

He says a positive result doesn’t automatically mean the person tested is infectious. Dongyan says inactive traces that can’t replicate or infect other people can also show up as positive test results.

The Chinese foreign ministry released a statement today. They said the virus prevention and control measures China is taking are based on science.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends testing respiratory tract specimens, where possible.

Spokesman Christian Lindmeier said they provide the best samples. ‘Faecal samples may offer an alternative testing material, especially in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms,’ he added, but they are ‘less likely than respiratory samples to be positive in the first week of symptoms’.

Do you think the tests are necessary?

Image via Alamy