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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Even Though He Couldn’t Cross The Border, This Abuelo Sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ To His Grandson From Across The Rio Grande

Things That Matter

Even Though He Couldn’t Cross The Border, This Abuelo Sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ To His Grandson From Across The Rio Grande

GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been overwhelmed with stories about people being kept apart by the virus. But despite the challenges that so many of us have faced during this pandemic, we find a way to make things work. And that’s exactly what this grandfather (who lives near the U.S-Mexico border) did to make sure that we was able to spend time with his grandson as he celebrated his 4th birthday.

Thanks to travel restrictions they couldn’t be together but they found a way to celebrate.

A heartwarming video is trending on Mexican social media showing a grandfather making his way to the U.S.-Mexico border to wish his four-year-old grandson a happy birthday. Although they couldn’t be together because of travel restrictions thanks to COVID-19, the grandfather managed to sing the traditional Mexican birthday song Las Mañanitas to his grandson, who listened from the other side of the Rio Grande in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

The user who uploaded the video to YouTube identified the man as Isidro González and his grandson as Santiago.

With microphone, keyboard and speakers in Eagle Pass, Texas, Grandpa asks about his grandson. “Santiago, where are you? He raises his hand” and the video shows Santi. “I love you. I love you very much ”, you can hear the grandfather shouting and the grandson replies that he does too.

“Congratulations, Santiago. He is turning 4 years old ”, says the grandfather and the singing begins.

For many families residing in Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, the pandemic restrictions imposed by the United States have meant they cannot cross the border to see family. González did not let that stop him from wishing his grandson a very happy birthday.

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Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

Things That Matter

Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

Jorge Saenz / AP / Getty Images

The United States is one of the world’s most successful countries when it comes to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine program. So far, more than 200 million vaccines have been administered across the U.S. and as of this week anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible.

Meanwhile, in many countries around the world – including Mexico – the vaccine roll out is still highly restricted. For many, who can afford to travel, they see the best option at a shot in the arm to take a trip to the U.S. where many locations are reporting a surplus in vaccines.

Wealthy Latin Americans travel to U.S. to get COVID vaccines.

People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States due to lack of supply back in their home countries. Some of those making the trip include politicians, TV personalities, business executives and a soccer team.

There is an old Mexican joke: God tells a Mexican he has only a week left to live but can ask for one final wish, no matter how outrageous. So the Mexican asks for a ticket to Houston—for a second opinion.

Virginia Gónzalez and her husband flew from Mexico to Texas and then boarded a bus to a vaccination site. They made the trip again for a second dose. The couple from Monterrey, Mexico, acted on the advice of the doctor treating the husband for prostate cancer. In all, they logged 1,400 miles for two round trips.

“It’s a matter of survival,” Gónzalez told NBC News, of getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. “In Mexico, officials didn’t buy enough vaccines. It’s like they don’t care about their citizens.”

Mexico has a vaccine rollout plan but it’s been too slow in many people’s opinions.

With a population of nearly 130 million people, Mexico has secured more vaccines than many Latin American nations — about 18 million doses as of Monday from the U.S., China, Russia and India. Most of those have been given to health care workers, people over 60 and some teachers, who so far are the only ones eligible. Most other Latin American countries, except for Chile, are in the same situation or worse.

So vaccine seekers who can afford to travel are coming to the United States to avoid the long wait, including people from as far as Paraguay. Those who make the trip must obtain a tourist visa and have enough money to pay for required coronavirus tests, plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars and other expenses.

There is little that is fair about the global race for the COVID-19 vaccine, despite international attempts to avoid the current disparities. In Israel, a country of 9 million people, half of the population has received at least one dose, while plenty of countries have yet to receive any. While the U.S. could vaccinate 70 percent of its population by September 2021 at the current rollout rate, it could take Mexico until approximately the year 2024 to achieve the same results.

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