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China using anal swabs for testing COVID-19: report

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China has begun testing people it considers as high risk for contracting COVID-19 with anal swabs amid a new outbreak, Newsweek reported Tuesday, saying that more than a million Beijing residents have undergone such a test. Local experts are reported as saying the rectal method is more accurate than the commonplace nasal test.

Public health authorities in Beijing said they were seeking to screen over 2 million people in 48 hours, according to the publication. Of those people, about 1.6 million Daxing residents were to be given antibody tests in addition to the throat, nasal, and rectal nucleic acid swabs.

Notably, the publication reported that anal swabs have been used since last year—but for those living in coronavirus hotspots such as Shanghai, according to an infectious disease expert quoted by China’s state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday.

“Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve tested for the virus using mainly throat swabs. Its characteristics are convenience and speed, so it’s suitable for large-scale testing,” Beijing You’an Hospital’s Li Tongzeng said, per Newsweek. “Nasal swabs are more accurate than throat swabs, but nasal swabs can be uncomfortable.”

“In some asymptomatic cases or in individuals with mild symptoms, they tend to recover from the illness very quickly,” he added. “It’s possible that there will be no trace of the virus in their throat after three to five days.

“What we’ve found is that in some infected patients, the coronavirus survives for a longer period of time in their digestive tract or excrement than in their respiratory tract,” Li also said.

The anal swabs are meant to be inserted 3 to 5 centimeters (1.2 to 2 inches) up the patient’s rectum, according to guidelines published by China’s National Health Commission, per Newsweek.

On Sunday, CCTV said that anal swabs would not be used as widely as other methods, saying the method was “not convenient,” according to The Guardian.

Li also said that anal swabs boost the COVID-19 detectability rate and decrease the likelihood of false positives.

“Of course, anal swabs aren’t as convenient as throat swabs, so they’re only being used on individuals in key quarantine areas,” Li added, per Newsweek. “This will reduce the return of false positives.”

This reporter reached out to the White House and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for comment about these rectal tests but received no response.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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