Ministry of Health not considering using invasive anal COVID-19 test

The Ministry of Health says they don't plan to use anal swabs to test for COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Typically people are tested for the virus using a nasal or throat swab, but China has recently introduced the new method which involves a saline-soaked cotton swab being inserted 3-5cm into the rectum and rotated several times. 

While some doctors claim the method is more accurate, others had concerns about its invasive nature.

On Friday the Ministry of Health confirmed they don't think the test will be used in New Zealand.

"The Ministry of Health is not currently considering the use of anal swabs to test for COVID-19," a spokesperson said. 

"We continue to monitor global developments in testing techniques and innovations."

Forbes reported that so far the anal tests in China are reserved for high-risk cases.

However, some people were issued surprise tests including travellers arriving in Beijing, people in MIQ facilities and a group of more than 1000 children and teachers.

Li Tongzeng, the deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, told the Washington Post that traces of the virus last longer in the anus.

"If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients," Li said. 

"But of course considering that collecting anal swabs is not as convenient as throat swabs, at the moment only key groups such as those in quarantine receive both."