US State Department officials in China are asking local authorities to stop subjecting US personnel to COVID-19 anal swabs. A US diplomat based in China reportedly made the request after learning about the alleged test conducted on US staff who are currently assigned in the country.

In a statement to CNN on Thursday, a spokesperson for the US State Department said the American foreign affairs agency never agreed to such testing. "The State Department never acquiesced reed to this form of testing," the state department spokesperson said, adding that the US foreign affairs agency already submitted a protest to its Chinese counterpart upon learning of the administration of such a test to some US personnel.

The spokesperson also revealed that the U.S. State Department received assurances from the Chinese ministry that this was erroneous and reiterated the exemption of U.S. diplomatic personnel to such tests. "We have given instructions to the staff to refuse this kind of test if local authorities in China ask them to do so," the State Department said in a statement.

On Thursday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for their part, professed their innocence about a Vice News report claiming that US diplomats in China are subjected to anal swab tests. According to the report, U.S. diplomats are complaining after the administration of such tests.

"As far as I know, and I have also checked with my colleagues, local Chinese authorities never asked US diplomats in China to take anal swab tests," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian to reporters during a regular briefing on Thursday.

An unnamed source from within the diplomatic corps told CNN that US representatives in China are negotiating with Chinese authorities to prevent their staff from undergoing anal swab tests. During the previous weeks, Chinese state media reported that authorities resort to anal swab tests in some cases. The report also mentioned some Chinese doctors consider the tests more reliable compared to a nasal or throat swab test.

Chinese infectious disease doctor Li Tongzeng said that there are instances when throat tests are not effective for some patients. "Some asymptomatic patients or those with minor symptoms recover fast [from Covid-19], and it's possible that throat tests won't be effective for these people in three to five days," he said.

The infectious disease doctor also revealed that there are studies in China that show positive nucleic results last longer on excrement compared to those on the patient's respiratory tract. It is not clear, however, whether anal swabs provide accurate results or are more efficient in detecting COVID-19.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to staff at the US State Department on February 4, 2020 during a visit by President Joe Biden. Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB