Covid-19: Shanghai eases child separation policy but extends lockdown

Govt says it would relax the policy slightly to allow parents to accompany children if they were also infected



Reuters file
Reuters file

By Reuters

Published: Wed 6 Apr 2022, 10:37 AM

Shanghai on Wednesday made some concessions on a widely unpopular child separation Covid-19 policy, in a nod to growing public frustration as it extends a citywide lockdown that has left some residents struggling to buy food.

The lockdown of China's most populous city, which started in parts of Shanghai 10 days ago and has since been expanded to confine practically all of its 26 million residents at home, has massively disrupted daily life and business.

Public criticism over the curbs, part of Beijing's elimination strategy, has ranged from complaints over crowded and unsanitary quarantine centres to difficulties in buying food or accessing medical treatment.

But the most controversial policy has been Shanghai's practice of separating Covid-positive children from their parents, which came to the fore on Saturday and triggered widespread anger across the country.

In the face of such criticism, the Shanghai government two days ago said it would relax the policy slightly to allow parents to accompany children if they were also infected. But children will still be separated from parents who were not Covid-positive, prompting further complaints.

On Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said guardians of children with special needs who are infected with Covid could now apply to escort them, but would need to comply with certain rules and sign a letter saying they were aware of the risks.

He did not provide further details and the Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment for clarification.

The comments brought widespread public relief, especially among parents, though some questioned why there was still a need to apply. A hashtag on the subject on China's Weibo social media platform drew more than 40 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

"This is the right thing to do, carry out management in a humane way," said one widely liked Weibo comment.

STRUGGLING TO BUY FOOD

Shanghai also said Wednesday it would conduct another round of citywide tests, a mix of antigen and nucleic acid testing. Movement curbs on residents will continue until it can evaluate testing results, officials said.

There are signs that the curbs, which were initially scheduled to last about five days for most, are fraying residents' nerves. Many are beginning to worry about food and drinking water, as supermarkets remain shut and deliveries are restricted.

ALSO READ:

MOUNTING ECONOMIC PRESSURES

Shanghai detected a record 16,766 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on April 5, up from 13,086 a day earlier. Symptomatic cases also rose to 311 from 268 the day before.

While the city's case numbers remain small by global standards, Shanghai has emerged as a test bed for China's Covid elimination "dynamic clearance" strategy, which seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases as well as their close contacts.

The city has set up 62 temporary quarantine sites at hotels, stadiums and exhibition centres, and is also converting the 150,000-square-metre National Convention and Exhibition Center into a facility that can hold 40,000 people.


More news from coronavirus