Shanghai facilitates separation of children under COVID policy, but extends locking

SHANGHAI, April 6 (Reuters) – Shanghai on Wednesday offered concessions on an infamous coward isolation policy that separated children from their parents and provoked public outcry, but extended the lockout across the city, making it difficult for some residents to buy food.

The lockdown of China’s most populous city, which began 10 days ago in some parts of Shanghai, has now locked up nearly 26 million residents at home, severely disrupting daily life and business.

Public criticism of sanctions as part of Beijing’s COVID eradication strategy ranges from complaints about overcrowded and unhygienic isolation centers to difficulties in purchasing food or receiving medical treatment.

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Although Shanghai’s case numbers are small by global standards, the city has emerged as a testing ground for China’s anti-dynamic clearance Govt strategy, which seeks to test, detect and centrally isolate all positive cases and their close links.

Analysts say the impact of the restrictions on the economy is growing, according to Nomura estimates, with nearly 200 million people across China, especially small businesses, under some sort of lockout.

The most controversial of Shanghai’s practices is the separation of Govt-positive children from their parents, which came to the fore on Saturday and provoked widespread outrage across the country. read more

The Shanghai government responded two days ago by allowing affected parents to take their children to COVID isolation centers. But complaints continued about children being separated from non-Govt-positive parents.

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In another offer on Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said guardians of children with special needs affected by Govt disease can now apply to pick them up, but must comply with certain rules and sign a letter stating that they are aware of the risks. read more

When pressed for further information, it said the Shanghai government had issued guidelines to relevant medical institutions so that parents who wished to go with their children could access those institutions.

The comments brought widespread public relief, especially among parents, and some questioned why there was still a need to apply. A hashtag on the topic on China’s Weibo social media site received more than 40 million views as of Wednesday afternoon.

Weibo’s comment was widely accepted, “This is the right thing to do, to run the administration in a humane way.”

Shanghai also said on Wednesday that it was conducting another round of city-wide tests, a combination of antigen and nucleic acid testing. Authorities said restrictions on the movement of residents will continue until the test results are evaluated.

Initially there are signs that the planned blockades, which last for about five days for most people, are nerve-wracking for residents. As supermarkets close and supplies are banned, many are beginning to worry about food and water.

Some have complained in posts on social media that they have to get up at dawn for the opportunity to book groceries and that they are sold out in a matter of seconds. Others have turned to social WeChat groups to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk.

Struggling to buy food

Liu Ein, vice president of the Shanghai Commerce Commission, told reporters that officials were working to resolve the crisis and take care of the basic needs of the people.

He said efforts would be made to send food and other necessities from other provinces to Shanghai and to set up emergency distribution centers in and around the city to ensure vegetable supply. But home delivery is the biggest challenge, he said.

Even after a positive test for Kovit, the long wait to access medical treatment raised concerns. On Tuesday, Reuters saw an elderly woman waiting for two hours on Shanghai Street for help. She had a fever and tested positive for Kovit. read more

On April 5, 16,766 new asymptomatic corona virus cases were detected in Shanghai, up almost 90% of the national average and 13,086 a day earlier. The number of symptom cases counted separately by China rose to 311 from 268 the previous day. read more

The city has set up 62 temporary isolated sites in hotels, stadiums and exhibition centers, transforming the 150,000-square-meter National Convention and Exhibition Center into a 40,000-capacity facility.

Beijing has shown no signs of moving away from its COVID elimination approach. The military sent 38,000 medical personnel from other provinces to Shanghai to assist in control efforts.

On Wednesday, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng told reporters that China would continue to pursue the policy without hesitation.

At the same press conference, Wu Junyu, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the same press conference that the epidemic situation would soon improve if China strictly implemented existing COVID measures.

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Report by David Stanway, Brenda Coe and Shanghai and Beijing Bureau; Editing by Jerry Doyle and Edmund Cleman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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