After US media reports suggested some American envoys had been made to undergo the procedure as the result of an administrative error, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said no such tests had been conducted “to my knowledge”.
“To my knowledge... China has never required US diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing on Thursday.
He was asked about the claims after Vice News reported on Wednesday that some US embassy staff were subjected to the testing “in error” and that Beijing had since promised to stop doing so.
The report cited unnamed State Department officials as saying Washington had complained, calling the practice “undignified”.
A State Department representative neither confirmed nor denied the Vice report but told the Reuters news agency that it was "committed to guaranteeing the safety and security of American diplomats and their families, while preserving their dignity".
China has reportedly rolled out use of anal swabs to detect Covid infections since the start of the new year, with some health experts in the country claiming that the tests are more accurate and less likely to miss potential infections. The practice became more widespread around the Lunar New Year holidays amid concerns of regional outbreaks linked to celebrations and travel.
A study published by Chinese researchers in August in the journal Future Microbiology suggests that Beijing tried anal testing procedures much earlier last year.
The researchers said that some recovering Covid patients tested positive for the virus in anal swabs after testing negative in regular throat or nasal swab.
“Intriguingly, SARS-CoV-2 detection was positive in the anal swab of two patients and negative in throat swab and sputum samples,” the study said. “We propose anal swabs as the potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection for evaluation of hospital discharge of covid-19 patients.”
It has been reported that more than a million residents in Beijing have already undergone anal swab testing,
Health experts in China also remained at odds over the new method, with even those promoting its effectiveness noting that it is considerably more invasive and embarrassing for recipients than other tests. Some have suggested it should only be used in limited circumstances, such as in quarantine facilities.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies