Some Chinese citizens are avoiding going home for the Lunar New Year holidays after Beijing health authorities introduced anal swab tests for COVID-19.
Citizens were quoted in various media reports including Apple Daily, as saying that they would prefer to miss the holidays rather than undergo what they consider to be an intrusive, insulting, and humiliating procedure.
“Everyone involved will be so embarrassed,” one user wrote on Chinese social media site Weibo. A poll on Weibo showed that 80% of respondents “could not accept” the method, Washington Post reported.
“It’s not very harmful, but it’s very insulting,” said a user quoted in Taiwan media outlet New Talk. “”After reading the official posters, I have given up the idea of going home for the New Year,” said another.
The issue of anal swab tests also caused other criticisms of the government’s handling of the pandemic to rise to the surface, with some citizens saying the authorities’ measures are too strict, and others questioning the sensitivity of the reagent tests, according to New Talk.
China’s Lunar New Year holidays see around 3 billion trips being made in what is sometimes called “the world’s largest annual migration,” and Chinese officials worry that even a single undetected case could turn into a super-spreader event. Therefore the government has approved an expanded use of anal swab testing.
“If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients,” Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You’an Hospital, told China Central Television.
“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,” Dr Li said. “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.”
The anal swab test involves inserting a cotton tipped swab 3-5 centimeters into the rectum then gently rotating the swab several times. The swab is then placed into a container to be analyzed in a lab using a PCR test.
While reports stressed that the testing method is only used for high-risk cases, passengers arriving in Beijing, residents of quarantine centers and, according to local officials, a group of more than 1,000 schoolchildren and teachers believed to be exposed to the virus, were counted among those who have been subjected to the tests, Forbes reported.
Post-swab video goes viral
In the meantime, a video released by Sina News, January 29 purportedly showing patients walking out of a clinic with an unusual gait after having an anal swab test has gone viral on Chinese video-sharing platforms and social media.
The video was filmed in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, according to various reports in the Chinese media. “People in Shijiazhuang turned into penguins in seconds after the anal swab test,” People’s Daily News reported.
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