Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Shanghai eases Covid child separation policy

A Shanghai health official says guardians of children with special needs who are infected with Covid can now apply to escort them, but will need to comply with certain rules and sign a letter saying they are aware of the risks.

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Shanghai on Wednesday made some concessions on a widely unpopular child separation Covid 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.

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