Children and the Elderly Suffer Under Shanghai’s Lockdown

What Shanghai authorities once hailed as a four day “slowing of the pace” to combat an Omicron outbreak has now become a lockdown in earnest, and children and the elderly are among those suffering the most. On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the cover-up of a deadly omicron outbreak in the city’s most populous home for the elderly. Pioneering Chinese outlet Caixin also reported on the outbreak at the home, but its article was censored within hours. Late last week, The Wall Street Journal again broke news of another outbreak in a separate elder-care facility, Shanghai Tongkang Hospital, where at least one patient has died and others remain in quarantine. None of the deaths have yet been reported by Shanghai’s municipal health commission.

As news of elderly deaths was being suppressed, a video of unaccompanied COVID-positive infants and toddlers in quarantine went viral on Douyin and Weibo: 

The children in the videos were reportedly being held at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center in Jinshan district. Shanghai officials claimed that the videos were taken while the children were in transit to a pediatric center, but did not deny that dozens of infants are being quarantined separately from their parents. Shanghai’s “rumor busting” WeChat account later posted photos of a better-organized nursery for young COVID patients—albeit with only two adults visible across four photos showing dozens of children. Although some Shanghai officials lamented the separations—Zeng Qun, deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, called it a “gut-wrenching problem”—the city is sticking by the policy that separates COVID-positive children from their COVID-negative parents. “​​If the child is younger than seven years old, those children will receive treatment in a public health center,” a municipal health official said in a press conference Monday, adding: “We have made it clear that children whose parents are also positive… can live in the same place as the children.” In online comments archived and translated by CDT, netizens expressed shock and outrage over the treatment of children, and one mother shared her experience of having her daughter taken from her:

@A-佩佩: I have a one-year-old daughter. On March 26, while we were quarantining in a hotel, she was forcibly taken to Jinshan for treatment. At the time, we tried everything including calling 12345 and 110 [a general helpline and the police, respectively], but nothing worked. We were just told to comply with the government’s pandemic protection work. We had to allow a nurse to walk off with our still-feverish daughter in her arms. At the time, we thought our daughter would get better treatment there, but now it seems that everything is different from what they told us. Our child was exhausted after contracting the virus, yet not even her basic safety, food, clothing or hygiene needs were met. As her parents, we wanted to go along with her. Why wouldn’t they let us go? Because going together would be a violation of pandemic prevention work and would have led to our arrest. With deep reluctance, we entrusted our daughter to you, and this is how you treated her. My heart broke while watching that video. I don’t know what my daughter is suffering in there…she’s only a year old! She can’t even walk yet. She’s still drinking baby formula. To the people who designed this policy, I ask—where is your humanity?

@牧童: This isn’t a problem of “lack of foresight,” it’s a problem of “simply not caring.” As long as there is no public outcry, they don’t give a damn. This is the “new normal.”

@Matoda: Those who say this is “impossible” are truly naive. [Chinese]

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