The US accused China of forcing American diplomats to take anal swab tests for COVID-19

The US accused China of forcing American diplomats to take anal swab tests for COVID-19
A medical worker takes a throat swab for a COVID-19 test in Beijing, China.NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images
  • The State Department accused China of making US diplomats take anal COVID-19 tests, Vice reported.
  • A spokesperson told Vice that China said the tests were done "in error" after the US complained.
  • China said it didn't require diplomats to take the tests but also didn't deny the tests happened.

The US has accused China of making American diplomats take anal swabs to test for COVID-19 before backtracking after the US complained, Vice reported.

A State Department representative told Vice on Wednesday that the US had complained to China when it learned that some staff members had been made to do this kind of test.

"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," the representative said.
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The person added that China then told the US that the tests were given to American diplomatic staff members "in error" and that diplomatic staff members were supposed to be exempt from the test, which some parts of China have started using in a bid to more accurately find COVID-19 cases.

The representative also said the State Department was telling its staff to decline the test if asked to do one.

Insider has contacted the State Department for comment.
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Asked about the report at a Thursday press briefing, according to the country's official transcript, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "I have checked with my colleagues. As far as I know, China has never required US diplomatic staff in the country to take anal swab tests."

Zhao did not say whether China had already conducted anal swab tests on US officials. Vice said it was not clear how many diplomatic employees or their families had been made do the tests.
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According to the Global Times, a state media outlet, 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.

As Insider's Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported, Chinese researchers say they found that anal swabs could detect virus cases more accurately - but they also noted that the procedure wasn't as convenient as throat swabs.

The test involves a cotton-tipped swab inserted around 3 cm to 5 cm - 1 to 2 inches - into the rectum, with the swab then tested in a lab in the same way a polymerase-chain-reaction coronavirus test taken from the nose or throat is.
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The Washington Post reported in January that Chinese social-media users reacted with disbelief and concern when they learned about the procedure.

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