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China subjects US diplomats to anal COVID tests

US State Department pledges to get to bottom of matter and preserve 'dignity' of its diplomats

Chinese medical worker demonstrates anal swab on mannequin. (Twitter, @Coronavirus News photo)

Chinese medical worker demonstrates anal swab on mannequin. (Twitter, @Coronavirus News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. diplomats arriving in China are complaining about being subjected to anal swab tests for the Wuhan coronavirus.

On Feb. 18, The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials in China have been forced to undergo invasive anal swab tests for COVID-19. In an effort to fill the cracks in its epidemic prevention system, Beijing began to roll out the controversial testing method citing studies that claimed the virus survives longer in the anus and excrement than the upper body tracts.

The State Department pledged to get to the bottom of the issue and claimed it was "evaluating all reasonable options" to deal with the matter and preserve the "dignity" of U.S. diplomats “consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” On Thursday (Feb. 25), VICE released a report saying the State Department had stated that Beijing promised to stop forcing U.S. officials to take the anal tests after Washington protested the method was "undignified."

On Wednesday (Feb. 24), a State Department official told VICE that it had "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." In response, Beijing claimed the swabs were given "in error" and that diplomatic personnel should be exempt from the examination.

However, when asked to respond to the matter during a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, "I checked with my colleagues on the matter" and then proclaimed that, "As far as I know, China has never asked U.S. diplomats stationed in China to do anal swab tests.”

China's state-run Global Times then declared The Washington Post article on anal swab tests to be "fake news" and parroted Zhao's denial of the practice.

It did concede that international arrivals in Beijing and Qingdao are required to "take anal swab tests before completing their quarantine periods." It added that Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province has implemented the technique as part of its "routine monitoring" of the health of cold-chain workers.

Panic set in on Chinese social media when the news broke in January that China would begin taking the draconian approach to coronavirus testing, with one victim of two swabs telling VICE that it "felt like he was having diarrhea." In that month alone, more than 1 million residents in Beijing were subjected to the procedure.