China Tells Those Upset with Coronavirus Anal Swabs to Hand Over Stool Samples

A medical worker waits for the next individual to take a swab test for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Beijing in December 30, 2020. (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s state-run Global Times interviewed a health “expert” Tuesday who suggested international arrivals to China should submit stool samples in lieu of the anal swabs some foreign travelers must receive to test for coronavirus.

Lu Hongzhou, identified as an expert from China’s Fudan University Public Health Clinical Center, told the newspaper that he firmly supports anal swab coronavirus testing for international travelers to China because nasal or throat swab testing may produce false-negative results.

“Anal swab testing will tell whether the person is a virus carrier immediately, and it will effectively prevent transmission,” Lu said.

He further suggested that “for the testing, people staying under hotel quarantine can submit stool samples instead, so as to reduce the discomfort during the sampling process.”

Some studies indicate anal swabs may be more reliable than nasal or throat swabs when testing for the Chinese coronavirus because traces of the virus remain in fecal matter longer than in the respiratory tract.

“Current data available on COVID‐19 [coronavirus] would suggest that SARS‐CoV‐2 virus is shed through the gastrointestinal system via feces. Some reports further indicate that a subset of COVID‐19 patients may continue to have positive SARS‐CoV‐2 anal/rectal swab and stool test after negative conversion of nasopharyngeal test,” the authors of one study write.

Anal swab tests in China currently involve a cotton swab measuring three to five centimeters long “inserted in one’s rectum and gently rotated for 10 seconds of sample excavation” according to the Beijing health commission’s website. Chinese health authorities began using the method in January to test for coronavirus in certain travelers returning to China from overseas, close contacts of confirmed patients, and some workers believed to be at high risk of exposure to the virus.

The Japanese government said Monday that some of its citizens arriving in China recently were subjected to anal swab tests for coronavirus during a mandatory quarantine period, which they say caused them “psychological distress.”

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Katsunobu Kato, said the Japanese government has made a request through the Japanese Embassy in Beijing for Chinese health authorities to stop forcing the method on its citizens.

“Many Japanese employees in Beijing have criticized China’s carrying out coronavirus tests using anal swabs as an action that would humiliate people and could violate their human rights and dignity,” Japan’s Kyodo News reported on March 2.

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