Man, and here I was thinking the nasal coronavirus test was unpleasant.
China’s controversial anal coronavirus test
China’s borders are largely closed to foreigners, and those arriving from abroad are subjected to a strict monitored quarantine. Not only is the quarantine now up to 21 days, but it also includes several tests throughout the quarantine.
It’s being reported that as of recently, China seems to now consistently be requiring anal swab tests for COVID-19 at certain airports, which has prompted complaints from tourists, diplomats, and more. The Japanese government recently complained about this policy after some Japanese visitors stated they went through “great psychological pain” because of this testing.
The way this works, a sterile cotton swab is inserted 3-5 centimeters (1.2-2 inches) into the anus before being rotated and then removed. As an alternative, and due to objections from some governments, select foreign visitors are now allowed to submit stool samples.
The anal coronavirus test is in addition to the nasal one — for example, during a 21 day quarantine it could be normal to have both two nasal tests and two anal tests.
The alleged reason for these anal swabs is that coronavirus traces can be detectable in the anus for much longer than in the respiratory tract. The virus lives longer in the anus than the respiratory tract, meaning that anal testing might provide fewer false negatives.
The general strategy seems to be to first perform a respiratory test, and then in the following weeks perform an anal test. A positive test doesn’t necessarily mean that someone can spread the virus, though — it’s believed that inactive traces unable to replicate could also show a positive result.
While China’s borders are largely closed, those arriving from abroad are not only being subjected to a quarantine of up to 21 days, but are also being requested to take multiple anal coronavirus tests. With this, a cotton swab is inserted 3-5 centimeters into the anus, twisted, and then removed.
I’ll be curious to see how long this testing policy sticks around. Here’s to hoping that coronavirus sniffing dogs are the future of testing, and not these anal swabs…