Germany has joined Japan and the United States in protesting China’s use of anal COVID-19 tests on foreign visitors, citing complaints from German citizens about the “tightened procedures.”
“We have repeatedly raised that issue vis-à-vis the Chinese government, especially with regard to the medical tests and examinations that are taking place against the will of the persons concerned,” a source from the German Foreign Office told VICE World News.
The humble cotton swab caused a diplomatic stir last month after the United States complained that State Department staff was subjected to the procedure.
China appears to be the only country using the test on incoming travelers, including returning Chinese citizens. The test is being expanded in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, Chinese media reported this week.
Chinese health authorities have said that anal swabs can help detect the virus. Medical professionals outside China have used rectal samples to test for the coronavirus, albeit under different circumstances. In the autonomous Spanish region of Galicia, for example, doctors collected rectal samples from patients in critical condition to test for COVID-19, according to the newspaper El Correo.
But China’s use of the test on international arrivals has touched a nerve both at home and abroad.
Following the U.S.’ protest, Japan has asked Chinese authorities to stop using anal tests on Japanese citizens. A government spokesperson told VICE World News that some Japanese citizens complained of “psychological distress” after the test.
In a Monday statement, chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Katō said that Tokyo had made a formal request through its embassy in Beijing to exempt arriving Japanese citizens from the swab.
“At the moment, we have not received Chinese response about changing their way of testing,” the spokesperson said Wednesday.
For South Korean visitors, travelers can now submit stool samples instead of “Chinese authorities taking them directly,” Choi Young-sam, spokesman of the South Korean foreign ministry, said on Tuesday.
Chinese people, too, have protested these invasive tests, likening the experience to having diarrhea. In a poll on Chinese social media platform Weibo, 80 percent of respondents said they “could not accept” the examinations.
To properly administer the test, the Chinese National Health Commission advises that cotton swabs be put 3 to 5 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) inside the rectum.
After complaining to Beijing, the U.S. State Department said the Chinese government promised to exempt American diplomats from the anal swabs. Beijing denied that it ever requested U.S. diplomats to do the test.
Australian diplomats in Beijing have not been asked to undergo anal testing, a person with knowledge of the matter told VICE World News.