Anal swab COVID-19 test won’t make you waddle ‘like a penguin’, China insists. Yes, really

Patrick Kelleher
·2-min read

Officials in China have tried to reassure the public that they won’t end up waddling “like penguins” if they receive an anal swab for COVID-19.

A small number of people have been receiving anal swabs in quarantine centres in China, according to local media reports, with some experts suggesting that these tests could be more accurate than the regular throat and nose swabs.

However, authorities sought to assuage people’s concerns over the idea of anal swabbing after a fake video was circulated widely on social media in China showing people waddling like penguins while walking out of a hospital.

The video was set to a laugh track and suggested that the people recorded were waddling because they had received an anal swab as part of COVID-19 testing measures.

The recording, allegedly filmed on 28 January in Shijiazhuang, racked up millions of views before being taken down by internet censors, according to the Daily Mail.

In a statement released on Sunday (31 January), the Shijiazhuang Internet Report Centre said the video had been doctored to spread “rumours” about the invasiveness of the anal swabs.

The centre said anal swabs had been used on a number of people in quarantine centres, but it was quick to point out that it is by no means the standard form of COVID-19 test and is still relatively rare.

Anal swabbing for COVID-19 won’t be rolled out wide scale anytime soon

An article was subsequently published in the Global Times, a Beijing-based newspaper known for having heavy government influence, titled: “You won’t walk like penguin after anal swab coronavirus test”.

As queer people across the world will happily attest, you should definitely not find yourself waddling like a penguin after having a tiny swab inserted into the rectum.

According to official instructions for the testing method, the swab is inserted just 1.2 to 2 inches into the rectum and is rotated several times before being removed.

It is not yet clear if anal swabbing is any less or more reliable than the standard throat and nose swabs that have been completed up until now.

Some experts believe that traces of the coronavirus may linger for longer in the digestive system, leading to the suggestion that anal swabs could be more reliable at detecting the virus.

However, the testing method is unlikely to be rolled out wide scale anytime soon, as anal swabbing would be much more cumbersome than standard throat and nose swabbing.

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