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China is now using anal swab tests to curb the spread of the coronavirus in its capital city of Beijing, according to state TV.
This comes after small, local outbreaks in the country led to China shutting off many of its northern cities.
And now it is rolling out mass testing projects – with a twist.
Before, these tests had mostly been carried out with nose and throat swabs.
But rapid test involves a swab being inserted around two to three centimetres (0.8 to 1.2 inches) into the rectum and being rotated multiple times. The swab is then taken out and sealed in a sample container. The process is reported to take around 10 seconds.
Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, says the anal swab method “can increase the detection rate of infected people”.
He says this is because virus traces remain longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, where you collect nasal and throat swabs.
He told CCTV: "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.
"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".
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However, the effectiveness of anal swabs has been met with criticism from some experts.
Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told state media, Global Times that nasal and throat swabs remain more efficient tests as the virus is a respiratory disease.
He adds: "There have been cases concerning the coronavirus testing positive in a patient's excrement, but no evidence has suggested it had been transmitted through one's digestive system".
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Many users of China's popular social media website, Weibo, have reacted online to the test in both horror and amusement.
One who underwent the process joked: "I've done two anal swabs, every time I did one I had to do a throat swab afterwards – I was so scared the nurse would forget to use a new swab."
"So lucky I returned to China earlier," another user joked.
"Low harm, but extreme humiliation," said another, adding a laughing emoji.
Beijing has announced that people from medium or high-risk areas will be locked out of the city from Thursday.
The country has also put in new lockdown measures and even tightened rules on international arrivals. If you're now entering the country, you must quarantine for 14 days in a selected hotel. There are also extra home observation rules for locals across many cities and regions.
- World Health Organisation
- Travel Advice
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