Japan has asked China to avoid using anal swabs to test its citizens for the novel coronavirus, saying the method has prompted complaints of "psychological distress."
Tokyo's intervention comes after reports that U.S. diplomatic personnel in China had complained of being subjected to the intrusive tests — a claim Beijing denied.
China, which has largely brought the virus under control domestically, said last month that anal swabs could be more effective than normal throat and nose tests as the virus can linger longer in the digestive system.
But Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said late Monday that Tokyo had made a formal request through its embassy in Beijing that people arriving from the country be exempted.
"Our embassy has requested Japanese citizens be excluded from anal PCR tests, as some Japanese expatriates … expressed the opinion that the tests produce significant psychological distress," Kato said.
"At this point we have not received a response that they will change this. … We will continue pressing the issue," he added, noting that there was no information that any other country was using the method.
Asked about the complaint, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing's testing methods were "science-based" and "in accordance with the changes in the epidemic situation as well as relevant laws and regulations".
Last month, U.S. media said State Department personnel in China had complained about the method, but Beijing rebuffed the reports, saying it had "never requested U.S. diplomatic personnel in China to undergo anal swabs."
Officials in China have used anal swabs to test people it considers at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, including residents of neighborhoods with confirmed cases as well as some international travelers.
But they have acknowledged it would be hard to use anal swabs as widely as the other methods, which have been used to test millions in mass campaigns, as the technique was "not convenient."
Kato said at a regular news conference the government would continue to urge China to exempt its citizens from such a test method, used on some of those quarantined or entering China, noting it "has not been confirmed anywhere else in the world."
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.