By Abigail Williams and Adela Suliman

U.S. diplomats in China were subjected to anal swab tests for Covid-19, a Department of State spokesperson confirmed Thursday, adding that a protest had been lodged with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo)

The United States had received assurances from China that the tests were done in error and that diplomatic personnel were exempt from this specific testing requirement, the spokesperson said.

“The Department is committed to guaranteeing the safety and security of American diplomats and their families while preserving their dignity, consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as well as other relevant diplomatic law provisions,” the spokesperson said.

The Washington Post reported last week that some U.S. personnel had told the department they had been subjected to the anal tests.

However, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a news conference Thursday that he had checked with his colleagues and as far as he knew, “China has never asked U.S. diplomats stationed in China to have anal swab tests.”

Some health experts say the anal swab tests are more accurate than nasal and mouth swabs to detect virus traces.

Anal swabs could be more effective because traces of the virus stay in fecal matter for a longer time than those in the respiratory tract, Dr. Li Tongzeng, a respiratory diseases doctor in Beijing, told Chinese state television last month.

The story was first reported by The Washington Post.

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