China has started using anal swabs to test people who are believed to be at a high risk of catching Covid-19, according to state TV.
Beijing officials last week took anal swabs from residents in neighbourhoods with confirmed cases, along with those in designated quarantine facilities.
Doctors say the method, which sees the swab inserted about 3-5cm into the rectum and rotated, can be more effective in detecting Covid-19.
Such tests will help increase the detection rate of people infected with Covid-19, as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus or faeces than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s You’an Hospital, told CCTV.
‘We found that some asymptomatic patients tend to recover quickly. It’s possible that there will be no trace of the virus in their throat after three to five days,’ added the doctor.
‘But the virus lasts longer from the samples taken from the patient’s digestive tract and excrement, compared to the ones taken from the respiratory tract.
‘If we conduct anal swabs for nucleic acid testing, it would increase the detection rates of patients and lower the chance of a missed diagnosis.’
However, CCTV said on Sunday that anal swabs will not be used as widely as other methods such as nasal and throat swabs, as the technique was ‘not convenient’.
Small, localised coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks have seen multiple cities in northern China sealed off from the rest of the country.
The cases have prompted mass testing campaigns, which up until now have mostly been conducted using throat and nose swabs.
News of the latest swabs left some social media users squirming, with many who underwent the test taking to China’s popular Twitter-like Weibo platform to share jokes about their experiences.
‘I’ve done 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 swab,’ one Weibo user joked.
Another joked: ‘Low harm, but extreme humiliation.’
As cases rise around the world, China has imposed stricter requirements on international arrivals in an effort to keep domestic transmission close to zero.
The country has also tightened restrictions domestically, with Beijing announcing that people from medium- or high-risk areas will be barred from the city from Thursday to reduce the risk of virus transmission over the Lunar New Year period.
Meanwhile, arrivals into the country must have multiple negative test results and quarantine for at least 14 days in a designated hotel on arrival, with many cities and regions imposing additional home observation requirements.
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