China is requiring some travelers arriving from overseas to receive an invasive anal swab test as part of its coronavirus containment measures, a move that has outraged and shocked several foreign governments.

Japanese officials said on Monday that they had formally asked China to exempt Japanese citizens from the test, adding that some who had received it complained of “psychological distress.” And the United States State Department last moth said it had registered a protest with the Chinese government after some of its diplomats were forced to undergo anal swabs, though Chinese officials denied that.

It is not clear how many such swabs have been administered or who is subject to them. Chinese state media has acknowledged that some arrivals to cities including Beijing and Shanghai are required to take the tests, though the reports said the requirements might vary depending on whether the travelers were deemed to be high-risk.

Chinese experts have suggested that traces of the virus may survive longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract and that samples of the former may prevent false negatives. China has imposed some of the strictest containment measures in the world, including barring most foreign arrivals, and has largely suppressed the epidemic.

Global Times tabloid that nasal or throat swabs could cause “uncomfortable reactions,” leading to subpar samples. He acknowledged that fecal samples could replace anal swabs, to prevent similar discomfort.

But other experts — including in China — have questioned the need for anal samples.

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