Children separated from parents in Shanghai as China imposes draconian COVID lockdown

Video shows healthcare workers using megaphones to make public announcements on streets of Shanghai. “From tonight, couples should sleep separately, don't kiss, hug is not allowed, and eat separately. Thank you for your corporation,” the workers tell the residents of a housing society

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, April 07, 2022, 12:28 PM IST
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Workers take off protective gear next to the entrance of a locked-down neighborhood during a pandemic lockdown in Jing'an district in Shanghai, China, on April 5, 2022 | AFP

Residents under lockdown in Shanghai say they are running out of food, amid the city's biggest ever Covid outbreak.

Residents are confined to their homes, banned from leaving for even essential reasons such as grocery shopping. Almost 20,000 cases were reported on Wednesday in Shanghai, China's biggest city - marking a new national record.

Officials have admitted that the city is facing "difficulties" but say they are trying to improve this.

Videos posted by Shanghai residents on Twitter show announcements being made by drones. The drones appeared in the sky after residents were found singing and protesting lack of supplies in their balconies.

The video was first shared on Weibo, and made its way to Twitter after some Chinese journalists picked it up. According to the translation provided by the locals, the drones asked people to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and "control your desire for freedom".

They have been asked not to open the window or sing.

Another such video shows healthcare workers using megaphones to make public announcements on streets of Shanghai. “From tonight, couples should sleep separately, don't kiss, hug is not allowed, and eat separately. Thank you for your corporation,” the workers tell the residents of a housing society.

In recent weeks the city had quarantined certain compounds. Last week, officials implemented a staggered lockdown where the city was split into two and each half had separate measures.

But on Monday the lockdown was extended indefinitely, and it now covers the entire city of 25 million people.

Strict rules mean most people have to order in food and water. But the surge in cases and the lockdown extension have overwhelmed delivery services and grocery shop websites.

Many locals have vented their frustrations online, saying that in some areas of the city, they've been left completely unable to order any food or water supplies. The government is also delivering supplies but there have been delays, residents say.

Many delivery personnel are also in locked-down areas, leading to an overall decrease in delivery capacity.

Following a public uproar, Shanghai is allowing at least some parents to stay with children infected with COVID-19, making an exception to a policy of isolating anyone who tests positive.

A top city health official said at a news conference that parents could apply to stay with children with “special needs” and accompany them if they fully comprehend the health risks and sign an agreement.

The parents must wear masks, dine at a different time than their children, avoid sharing items with them and strictly follow all regulations, said Wu Qianyu of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission. She did not define what qualified as “special needs.”

Reports that parents were being separated from their infected children had sparked a wave of protest online last weekend, fuelled by photos showing several children in cots at a quarantine site with no parents in sight.

The announcement came as China’s largest city remained in lockdown and conducted more mass testing Wednesday following another jump in new cases.

A top city health official said at a news conference that parents can apply to stay with children with “special needs” and accompany them if they fully comprehend the health risks and sign an agreement.

The parents must wear masks, dine at a different time than their children, avoid sharing items with them and strictly follow all regulations, said Wu Qianyu of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission. She did not define what qualifies as “special needs.”

Her announcement followed Chinese state media reports a day earlier that an isolation site set up at the Shanghai New International Expo Center was accepting children with parents. The city has opened sprawling isolation centers for tens of thousands of people to isolate the growing number of positive cases.

Reports that parents were being separated from their infected children had sparked a wave of protest online last weekend, fueled by photos showing several children in each cot with no parents in sight.

Shanghai reported 17,077 new cases detected over the previous day, all but 311 of them in people who showed no symptoms. Under China’s zero-COVID approach, the city requires all those who test positive to be held in designated locations for observation, along with their close contacts.

The latest cases bring Shanghai’s total to around 90,000 in an outbreak that began last month. No deaths have been ascribed to the outbreak driven by the omicron BA.2 variant, which is much more infectious but also less lethal than the previous delta strain. Two deaths have been reported in another ongoing outbreak in Jilin province in China’s northeast.

An official from the EU Chamber of Commerce in China joined a growing chorus of criticism of the Shanghai lockdown, which has disrupted daily life and commerce in a major financial and business center.

“We see a severe shortage of living necessities, particularly fresh vegetables, and citizens are unable to get their deliveries via their apps,” said Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, chair of the chamber’s Shanghai chapter.

While some residents are receiving food supplies from their district government, she said that “a kind of black market” has developed charging “rocket-high prices” for fruits and vegetables.

“Another really big fear is ending up in one of those mass central quarantine sites,” Schoen-Behanzin said in an online event for member companies and journalists.

(with inputs from AP)

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