The Japanese government on Monday called for an end to mandatory COVID-19 anal swab tests in China, following complaints from its people that it causes "great psychological pain."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato revealed in a news conference that some Japanese visitors to Beijing, China were subjected to the mandatory test. They then went to the embassy to talk about the "great psychological pain" it caused them.

Kato said he is not sure how many Japanese visitors had the test. But the complaints were enough to prompt them to call the attention of the Chinese government to stop using the practice on its people. He added that China has yet to respond to his request.

Internationally, nose and mouth swabs remain the most common and reliable testing procedure to detect the presence of the novel coronavirus in the body. China pioneered anal swab tests as its second method for testing after a nine-year-old boy tested positive for COVID-19 in January. Some cities subsequently rolled out the process during a mass testing drive.

According to Global News, the Chinese government believes that anal swabs provide better detection of the virus. The virus reportedly stays longer in faecal samples than those retrieved from the respiratory tract.

Li Tongzeng, a deputy director in charge of infectious disease at Beijing You'an Hospital, said at the time that anal swab testing raises the rate of identifying infected patients. He suggested though that the procedure must only be administered to those in quarantine because of its inconvenience.

The unconventional process is rather humiliating and painful for some even though it only takes roughly ten seconds to complete. It requires the swab to be inserted up to two inches into the rectum and rotated several times. The sample is then sealed in a container for testing.

This is the second time that China received backlash against the use of anal swabs in testing for COVID-19. Last week, American diplomats in the country were reportedly forced to take the "undignified" procedure. A spokesperson has since given an apology and explained that the tests were given "in error" as U.S. diplomats stationed in the country are exempted.

Japan economy shrinks
Commuters in Tokyo. Japan's economy shrank 7.8 percent in the April-June quarter. Photo: AFP / Charly TRIBALLEAU