A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Shenyang, in China's northeast Liaoning province on December 31, 2020.
  • Japan has asked China to stop using anal swab Covid-19 tests on its diplomats.
  • The request comes a week after the US State Dept. also asked China to stop the tests.
  • China approved their use in Jan., citing studies that said the virus lasts longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has asked China to stop using anal swab coronavirus tests on its citizens as they enter the country, citing "great psychological pain," according to a new report from Reuters.

Employees at the Japanese embassy in Beijing said they had been repeatedly subjected to the tests, which some described as humiliating.

China introduced anal swab tests in January, citing several studies that claimed the tests were more accurate because Covid-19 virus particles remained in anal cavities and feces longer than in respiratory cavities.  

The swabs quickly became the focus of jokes among users of Weibo, China's most popular social media platform, the Straits Times reported. 

"Low harm, but extreme humiliation," said one user.

"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," said another, according to the Times.  

But even within the Chinese medical community, there is disagreement over the tests' usefulness. 

A group of researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that anal swabbing was only more effective among particular populations, specifically children and infants. And even proponents of anal swab tests, like Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You'an Hospital, recognize the tests are "not as convenient as throat swabs."

Japan's request to halt anal swab tests comes a week after Vice reported that the US State Department had also asked China to refrain from using anal swabs on its diplomats, saying that the tests threatened their "dignity."

China initially denied that it had given anal swab tests to any Americans, but a US Department spokesperson told Vice that counterparts in Beijing admitted to the US that the tests had been done "in error."

"The State Department never agreed to this kind of testing and protested directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when we learned that some staff were subject to it," the spokesperson told the media outlet.

Receive a daily news update on your cellphone. Or get the best of our site emailed to you

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.