Shanghai announces ‘exemptions’ from separating babies for quarantine

The Shanghai government on Wednesday announced limited “exemptions” to a policy separating children from their parents during state-mandated Chinese coronavirus quarantines.

“Guardians of special needs children infected with Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] may request to be escorted,” Reuters captioned Shanghai health official Wu Qianyu on April 6.

Wu unveiled the new policy adjustment on Wednesday at a regular news conference after a reporter asked her about Shanghai’s controversial quarantine rules, which include strict separation of children from their parents.

Parents who choose to accompany children with special needs to quarantine “are required to sign a letter stating that they are aware of the risks and are taking protective measures such as [as] Wear masks and don’t share household items with the children,” the Shanghai health official noted on April 6.

Wu on April 4 defended the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission’s policy of forcibly separating babies and children from their parents in the name of enforcing quarantine.

“If the child is under seven years old, these children will be treated in a public health center,” she told reporters at a news conference on Monday, as quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“For older children or teenagers … we mainly isolate them in central (quarantine) locations,” Wu said.

Shanghai’s current Chinese coronavirus quarantine strategy forces anyone who tests positive for the virus to be isolated from uninfected people, even if the positive cases are asymptomatic or show only mild symptoms of illness. The hard delineation applies to “children who have tested positive but whose family members have not,” AFP noted Monday.

The news agency reported on April 4 that Chinese citizens have openly denounced the separation of children in Shanghai in recent days on Chinese social media platforms such as the Twitter-like Weibo microblog.

“Parents must meet ‘conditions’ to accompany their children? This is absurd…it should be their most basic right,” an anonymous Chinese netizen allegedly wrote on Weibo.

“Unverified videos of babies and young children in government wards have been widely circulated,” AFP further announced on April 4, referring to makeshift quarantine hospitals for Chinese coronavirus patients in Shanghai.

The child separation controversy in Shanghai this week has only added to the city’s mounting problems. The metropolis of nearly 26 million people has been in varying degrees of lockdown since March 28 as city health officials try to contain Shanghai’s latest epidemic of the Chinese coronavirus. Shanghai first launched anti-epidemiological measures on March 11, when the city government closed all schools to contain a then-fresh outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus. The city, which is China’s most densely populated, has since been unable to avoid a month-on-month spike in cases of the disease despite its desperate lockdown and quarantine measures.

“In a major test of China’s zero-tolerance strategy to eliminate the novel coronavirus, the government extended the lockdown to eastern parts of the city and until further notice extended restrictions in western counties, which were due to expire on Tuesday [April 5]’ Reuters reported of the newly extended lockdown in Shanghai.

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