Following a public outcry, 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.
The announcement came as China’s biggest city went into lockdown and carried out more mass testing on Wednesday after a further rise in the number of new cases.
A senior city health official told a news conference that parents can request to stay with children with “special needs” and accompany them if they fully understand the health risks and sign a OK.
Parents should wear masks, dine at a different time from their children’s, avoid sharing items with them and strictly abide by all regulations, said Wu Qianyu of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission. She did not define what qualifies as “special needs”.
His 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 their parents. The city has opened vast 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 sparked a wave of online protests last weekend, fueled by photos showing several children in each bed with no parents in sight.
Shanghai reported 17,077 new cases detected over the previous day, all but 311 in people with no symptoms. As part of China’s zero-COVID approach, the city is requiring that everyone who tests positive be detained in designated places 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 attributed to the outbreak caused by the omicron BA.2 variant, which is much more infectious but also less lethal than the earlier Delta strain. Two deaths have been reported in another ongoing outbreak in northeast China’s Jilin province.
An official from the EU Chamber of Commerce in China has joined a growing chorus of criticism against Shanghai’s lockdown, which has disrupted daily life and commerce in a major financial and commercial hub.
“We are seeing a severe shortage of daily necessities, especially fresh vegetables, and citizens cannot get deliveries through their apps,” said Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, president of the chamber’s Shanghai branch.
While some residents receive food from their district government, she said “a kind of black market” has developed, charging “exorbitant prices” for fruit and vegetables.
“Another really big fear is ending up in one of these mass central quarantine sites,” Schoen-Behanzin said at an online event for member companies and journalists.
Others complained earlier about the lack of medical staff, volunteers and beds in isolation wards. More than 38,000 health workers from 15 provinces have been sent to Shanghai to help with mass testing and other needs.
Beijing is also tightening measures after 11 cases were detected in the Chinese capital in recent days.
Authorities have closed a shopping and office center in the bustling Wangjing district and require people arriving in the city to report to their places of work or residence within 12 hours and undergo a COVID-19 test within 72 hours. . They must undergo another test within 48 hours of returning to their place of work.
Despite growing public frustration and concerns over the economic effects, China says it is sticking to its uncompromising “zero tolerance” approach of imposing lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory isolation of all cases. suspects and close contacts.
While China’s vaccination rate hovers around 90%, its locally produced inactivated virus vaccines are considered weaker than mRNA vaccines such as those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that are used overseas. as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. Vaccination rates among the elderly are also much lower than those of the population as a whole, with only about half of people over 80 fully vaccinated.