Things That Matter

China Is Using Anal Swabs To Test For COVID-19 – Could This Be The Future Of Testing?

Although the Coronavirus pandemic originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan at the end of 2019 – and the country was hit hard by the outbreak – China seemed to successfully get a handle on the health crisis quicker than most countries. However, that tide seems to be shifting as the country struggles with one of its largest COVID-19 outbreaks yet.

It could be argued that Chinese citizens also endured some of the most draconian measures meant to curb the virus’ spread: entire cities were placed under strict lockdowns, drones were used to enforce curfews, entire communities were forced into testing centers.

But now they face a new indignity: the addition of anal swabs.

China rolls out rectal testing to help stop a spike in new infections.

Chinese officials have introduced the new protocol and it’s been met with widespread discussion and some outrage. Some Chinese doctors say the science is there. Recovering patients, they say, have continued to test positive through samples from the lower digestive tract days after nasal and throat swabs came back negative.

An anal swab test means inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 3-5cm (1-2 inches) into the rectum, which is then sent to a lab to be tested for the virus. They are analyzed in the same way as the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) coronavirus tests taken from the nose or throat.

“If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients,” Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You’an Hospital, said on state-run broadcaster China Central Television Sunday. 

Yet for many, the anal tests seems to be a step too far.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, China has been willing to take draconian measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, even at enormous inconvenience to its population. In the early days of lockdowns, health officials sometimes sealed apartment buildings to keep people from leaving. Millions were rounded up for overnight flash-testing drives, with people forming lines in the streets in darkness.

Even Chinese doctors who support the new tests said the method’s inconvenience meant it made sense for use only in select groups, such as at quarantine centers.

“Everyone involved will be so embarrassed,” one user in Guang­dong province said Wednesday on ­Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. In a Weibo poll, 80 percent of respondents said they “could not accept” the invasive method.

Thanks to this dummy, you can get a look for yourself.

The healthcare worker dips the swab in a saline solution – standard practice for this methodology – and then inserts the cotton-end into the rectum. The swab is inserted an inch or so to get the best results, and then gives it a nice little twist for good measure before pulling out and putting it in a plastic sample tube.

The new testing guideline comes just over a year after the virus began spreading rapidly in the country.

It’s been more than a year since the virus started circulating widely in China. The country has seen ups and downs in its battle against the pandemic with the situation right now being among the worst.

However, officials are further worried about the upcoming Lunar New Year, often called the world’s largest annual migration. Some 3 billion trips are made over the holiday during a non-pandemic year, which means even a single silent coronavirus case could rapidly leapfrog across the nation.

For its part, China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people before the holiday period begins, but that’s only 4% of the population, far too low a rate to prevent mass transmission.

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He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

Things That Matter

He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

CESAR VON BANCELS/AFP via Getty Images

Peru is being ravaged by a deadly second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. Few parts of the country are as badly affected as the remote Amazonian villages in the northeast of the country and cities like Iquitos.

The country has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic. For several months last year, it topped the per capita death charts. Officially, 1.2 million have been infected here while 43,880 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

One man’s effort to help those who have been most impacted, has nearly cost him his life.

As Peru now faces a daily oxygen shortage of 100 tons, Peruvians are becoming desperate for whatever oxygen they can get their hands on. Oxygen mafias are rising up to steal oxygen products and sell them on the black market for obscene prices.

Juan Torres Baldeón is a good samaritan who has, by his own estiamte, donated free oxygen to 8,000 desperate families in the jungle city of Iquitos. With his generosity, he’s likely saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in the process. But his generosity has also come with risks.

It began with crooks infiltrating the long lines outside Baldeón’s warehouse. The problem became so severe that the police and the military had to be called in to maintain order.

“We only give oxygen to those with prescriptions,” Baldeón told VICE News. “Normally, just half a tank, unless the patient is really sick, because we have to ration what we have. But we kept finding people in the queue who didn’t have a prescription, and when you asked them the name of the patient, they didn’t know what to say.”

Then he began receiving threatening phone calls, demanding he surrender his entire lifesaving supply of oxygen or leave his city behind.

That was when the criminals, who Baldeón believes are a local cocaine cartel, made their move.

In late January, Baldeón had left his home to go to the gym but quickly had to return. When he got back home, his office/home and four others alongside it were on fire.

“They probably thought I was inside,” he told VICE. “There’s nothing left now, just ashes. I feel for my neighbors. They didn’t even have anything to do with the oxygen.”

Thanks to Covid-19, oxygen has become a necessity for so many.

From Lima to Mexico City, residents have been forced to stand in line for hours on end and search far-flung neighborhoods to refill their oxygen tanks.

Normally, refilling a 10,000 liter tank of oxygen would cost around 100 Sols ($27). But with Covid-19 forcing so many to seek care at home with supplemental oxygen, some are paying more than $1,000.

Baldeón isn’t the only person to be threatened over oxygen supplies.

In Peru’s capital city of Lima, a district mayor was forced to send his family abroad following death threats that he received after setting up a municipal oxygen plant and distributing the essential gas to needy families, including to those from outside his district.

Yet even outside of Peru, his family remain unsafe, and they have had to change hotels after their whereabouts were discovered by the criminals, who also threw a grenade at his house.

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Nissan Mexico

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

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