Months-long lockdowns. Entire city populations herded through the streets for mandatory testing. The people of China could be forgiven for thinking they had seen it all during the coronavirus pandemic.
But now they face a new indignity: the addition of anal swabs — yes, you read that right — to the testing regimen for those in quarantine.
Chinese state media outlets introduced the new protocol in recent days, prompting widespread discussion and some outrage. Some Chinese doctors say the science is there. Recovering patients, they say, have continued to test positive through samples from the lower digestive tract days after nasal and throat swabs came back negative.
Yet for many, it seemed a step too far in government intrusions after a year and counting of a dignity-eroding pandemic.
“Everyone involved will be so embarrassed,” one user in Guangdong province said on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, on Wednesday. In a Weibo poll, 80 percent of respondents said they “could not accept” the invasive method.
Even Chinese doctors in support of the new tests said the method’s inconvenience meant it only made sense to use in select groups, such as at quarantine centres.
“If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients,” Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You’re Hospital, said on state-run broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. “But of course considering that collecting anal swabs is not as convenient as throat swabs, at the moment only key groups such as those in quarantine receive both.
The crackdown comes just over a year after the virus began spreading rapidly in the country. Chinese officials are worried about the approach of Lunar New Year next month, often called the world’s largest annual migration. Some 3 billion trips are made over the holiday during a non-pandemic year, which means even a single silent coronavirus case could rapidly leapfrog across the nation.
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