SHANGHAI: Shanghai health officials on Monday (Apr 4) defended a policy of separating babies and young children from their parents if they test positive for COVID-19, as frustration at the city’s tough virus controls builds.
Around 25 million people in Shanghai, China’s largest city and financial centre, remain locked down as authorities try to snuff out the country’s most severe virus outbreak since the end of the first pandemic wave in early 2020.
Under China’s unbending virus controls, anyone found positive – even if they are asymptomatic or have a mild infection – must be isolated from non-infected people.
That includes children who test positive but whose family members do not, health officials confirmed on Monday, defending a policy that has spread anxiety and outrage across the city.
“If the child is younger than seven years old, those children will receive treatment in a public health centre,” Wu Qianyu, an official from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said Monday.
“For older children or teenagers … we are mainly isolating them in centralised (quarantine) places.”
Parents and guardians have taken to social media to voice their anger at the policy.
“Parents need to meet ‘conditions’ to accompany their children? That’s absurd … it should be their most basic right,” one unnamed commenter wrote on the social media platform Weibo.
Unverified videos of babies and young children in state-run wards have been widely shared.
But Shanghai official Wu said the policy was integral to virus “prevention and control work”.
“We have made it clear that children whose parents are also positive … can live in the same place as the children,” she added.