The Japanese government has told China that anal swab tests cause “psychologicl distress.”
There’s a Covid-19 controversy brewing in Asia that is causing a foreign relations stink.
In January, it emerged that officials in China were using anal swabs to test for Covid-19, including on some international travelers in a few cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and the port city of Qingdao.
Initially, these tests were given only to individuals deemed to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19. But recently China has made anal-swab tests mandatory for nearly all international travelers, according to the Times UK.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control, the test is performed with a very long sterile cotton swab that is inserted up to two inches into the rectum before being gently rotated out.
Japan is the latest country to make a formal request to China for an exemption for its citizens, saying the anal swab testing method can be traumatizing, according to the Japan Times.
“Our embassy has requested Japanese citizens be excluded from anal PCR tests, as some Japanese expatriates … expressed the opinion that the tests produce significant psychological distress,” said Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato.
Last month, the U.S. Department of State confirmed that American diplomats in China had also been subjected to Covid-19 anal swab tests and that a complaint had been lodged with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A State Department spokesperson said, “The Department is committed to guaranteeing the safety and security of American diplomats and their families while preserving their dignity, consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as well as other relevant diplomatic law provisions,” reported the Associated Press. The State Department spokesperson added that Beijing said that the test was given to U.S. diplomats “in error.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian subsequently denied the claims in a press conference, saying that “China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests.”
Following a similar protest from the South Korean government, South Korean visitors to China are now allowed to submit stool samples instead of “Chinese authorities taking them directly,” according to Reuters.
China, which has successfully brought the virus under control, has contended that anal-swab tests are science-based and could be more effective than throat and nose tests because the novel coronavirus can linger in the digestive system. China’s goal to irradicate the virus in a country of 1.4 billion people has led to taking what many believe have been overzealous measures that has maintained strict testing, especially for travelers arriving from abroad.
On the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, some users have joked that Americans are so potty-mouthed when it comes to China, that it would be expected they would mistake an oral swab for an anal one, reported the BBC. Many have blamed former President Trump for worsening anti-Chinese sentiment by repeatedly calling Covid-19 the “China virus” and “Kung flu.”
“500,000 American people are dead,” noted on Sina Weibo user. “Is that dignity?”
I watch trends in travel. Prior to working at Forbes, I was a longtime freelancer who contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel +