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

  • The State Department accused China of making its 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 doesn’t require diplomats to take the tests, but didn’t deny that it happened.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The US has accused China of making its diplomats take anal swabs to test for COVID-19, and said China promised that diplomats wouldn’t have to do them after the US complained, Vice reported.

A State Department spokesperson told Vice on Wednesday that the US had complained to China when it learned that some staff had been made 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 spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that China then told the US the tests were given to US diplomatic staff “in error.”

They said that China said diplomatic staff 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.

They added that the State Department was telling staff to decline the test if asked to do one, and said the department is committed to preserving the “dignity” of diplomats and their families.

When asked about the report at a Thursday press briefing, 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,” according to the country’s official transcript.

Zhao did not say if China has already conducted anal swab tests on US officials.

Vice said it was not clear how many diplomatic employees their families had been made do the tests.

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, according to the Global Times, a state media outlet.

As Insider’s Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported, Chinese researchers say they found that anal swabs can detect virus cases more accurately — but they also noted that the procedure isn’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, which is then tested in a lab in the same way that a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) coronavirus test taken from the nose or throat is.

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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