China is returning anal swabs for Covid two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics
China has cut back on anal swab testing to screen for Covid-19 in an effort to stop the spread of the Omicron variant just two weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics kick off.
At least 27 people took the controversial anal swab tests at a Beijing apartment building, according to the Chinese newspaper, where a 26-year-old woman had contracted Omicron, the first recorded case of the variant in the city. Beijing news.
The anal tests involve inserting a sterile cotton swab up to 5 cm into the rectum and turning it several times. The swab is then removed before being analyzed in a lab.
Beijing is in the midst of a strict lockdown and testing regime after the city reported its first local Omicron infection on Jan. 15 and 11 cases were confirmed in the capital on Thursday afternoon, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
A diagram used by a Chinese doctor to explain the use of anal testing for Covid-19, a practice that has sparked protests from several foreign governments
A security guard in a face mask walks not far from the venues for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, on Jan. 17
Earlier this week, China canceled plans to sell tickets to the public for the Olympics and said only “selected” spectators will be allowed to participate as the number of Covid-19 cases in the country reached its all-time high since March 2020.
And organizers said today that the already scaled-down Olympics torch relay will be shut down from the general public due to Covid measures.
The residential area of the Haidian district where the confirmed Omicron case lives has been closed, with large barriers erected to prevent people from entering and exiting while tests – including anal swabs – are performed.
Anal swab testing has been used in China since 2020, but became widespread in Beijing in January 2021 after a nine-year-old boy tested positive for the virus.
China sparked even more controversy in March last year when it extended the use of anal swabs to foreign travelers flying to Beijing.
An employee of an epidemic control department in Beijing told Chinese state media at the time that all international arrivals in the capital can be ordered by health officials to take the tests, although they are not mandatory for everyone.
And in Shanghai, travelers from risk areas and those who arrived on planes with at least five positive cases had to undergo a full battery of tests, including anal swabs.
The US, Japan, South Korea and Germany have all expressed concerns about the tests, although China claims they are required for US diplomats.
Doctors have told state media the tests could help prevent missing infections because spores are detectable there longer than in the respiratory tract.
A health worker wears protective clothing while helping people register for a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 at a private testing site on January 17, 2022 in Beijing, China
China has largely avoided major virus outbreaks with a regime of lockdowns, massive testing for COVID-19 and travel restrictions, though it continues to fight spikes in several cities, including the port of Tianjin, about an hour from Beijing.
Beijing has tested more than 13,000 people after their first Omicron case, looking for cases of cross-transfer.
The office building where the woman who tested positive was closed to the outside world without warning on Sunday, employees were not allowed to leave and were subjected to mandatory Covid-19 testing.
Masked Covid control officers were seen carrying large boxes of bedding through the entrance to the office for the employees trapped inside.
The rise of Omicron in Beijing and an average of 130 Covid cases reported every day has led the organizers of the Winter Olympics to impose strict restrictions on the Games.
Today the organizers announced that the torch relay will be closed to the general public due to Covid measures.
The 1,200 torch-bearer relay will take place at the three sites of the Games and also from February 2-4, when the Olympics open, to tourist attractions such as the Great Wall.
“Safety is always a priority in this torch relay,” said Yang Haibin, an official of the Games Organizing Committee responsible for the torch relay.
“Given epidemic control considerations…the torch relay and ceremonial activities will be organized in safe and manageable closed locations.”
China earlier this week canceled plans to sell tickets to the public for the Beijing Winter Olympics and said only “selected” spectators will be admitted.
boy is taken by a health professional during a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 at a private testing site in Beijing on January 17 after a 26-year-old woman tested positive in the city
Beijing had already announced that no fans from outside China would be allowed into the events – in part due to the country’s weeks-long quarantine requirements – but they had promised to admit domestic audiences.
Those plans were scrapped by organizers on Monday, however, as China reported 127 new local infections just two weeks before the Winter Olympics were set to begin.
Monday’s announcement on the organizing committee’s website confirmed expectations that the Winter Games would have few spectators at the venues, under even stricter conditions than imposed at last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Travel restrictions to Beijing have been tightened, requiring all visitors to present recent negative test results, as China faces multiple nationwide outbreaks.
A health worker (L) takes a swab from a man to test for Covid-19 on January 20 in Beijing
Outside Beijing, several million people remain incarcerated as part of China’s “zero-tolerance” approach to the pandemic that has been attributed to preventing outbreaks on the scale of the US and other countries.
The number of new cases has fallen significantly in recent days due to strict adherence to masks, travel restrictions and school closures, along with vaccination rates now above 85 percent.
Some medical experts fear that lack of exposure to the virus could harm the Chinese population’s ability to deal with future waves of infection.
The Winter Games have been beset by similar political controversies, as well as medical considerations.
Six weeks ago, the US, UK and several allies said they would not send dignitaries to attend the Games to protest human rights abuses by the Communist Party regime.
Athletes have been threatened by the organizing committee with “certain penalties” for saying or doing anything that would offend their Chinese hosts, while several delegations urged anyone going to Beijing to bring “burner” phones instead of their personal ones. devices could be compromised due to concerns about their personal information.
The National Hockey League called uncertainty caused by the pandemic to keep all its players from the Olympic tournament.
And earlier this week, US broadcaster NBC said it will not send announcement teams to China, citing the same virus concerns that emerged when the network withdrew most of its broadcasters from the Tokyo Games.