February 28, 2021

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Anal Swab Covid Test Won’t Make You Waddle Like A ‘Penguin,’ China Says

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Topline

Chinese officials reassured members of the public Monday that newly introduced anal swab coronavirus tests will not make them waddle like penguins after a video purportedly showing people struggling to walk after using them went viral online. 

Key Facts

Authorities said a video of people waddling out of a hospital, which reportedly was viewed millions of times before being taken down, does not show people who have been subjected to the anal swab test.   

The video, set to a laugh track, is doctored and fake, officials said, though an explanation on what the video does show was not offered.  

The new tests, which involve inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 1-2 inches into the rectum and which Chinese authorities say can detect the virus more accurately than oral and nasal methods, are only used in high-risk cases owing to the less-than-convenient method of testing.

The test does not cause any discomfort, the officials said, and has only been used on hospitalized Covid-19 patients with diarrhea.  

Key Background

China has been willing to take extreme measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, locking down entire cities and provinces to contain outbreaks, quarantining new arrivals for lengthy periods of time and there are reports of forced testing. As cases continue to rise ahead of the Lunar New Year, Beijing introduced anal swabs as a new type of coronavirus test that could hopefully detect the virus more accurately. Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, said studies show that the virus lasts longer in the anus or excrement than in the respiratory tract and that an anal test could be better at identifying the disease in mild or asymptomatic cases. 

Chief Critic

Not all experts agree with the use of anal swabs to test for a respiratory illness. Yang Zhanqiu, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, told China’s Global Times that nose and throat swabs are the most efficient ways to gather test samples for Covid-19. “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,” Yang said.

Further Reading

China Deploys Anal Swab Tests To Detect High-Risk Covid-19 Cases (Forbes)

China assures its citizens they won’t waddle ‘like penguins’ following coronavirus anal swabs after ‘fake’ video goes viral (Mail Online)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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