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Public in Uproar as Shanghai Authorities Separate Children From Parents in ‘Zero-COVID’ Protocols

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 9, 2022
Workers and volunteers look on in a compound where residents are being tested for COVID-19 during the second stage of a pandemic lockdown in the Jing' an district of Shanghai on April 4, 2022. (Image: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s battle against COVID-19 shows no signs of stopping. The financial hub of Shanghai continues to battle the worst outbreak it has seen, with over 10,000 positive cases reported each day since April 4. 

The city’s 26 million residents remain under lockdown in China’s most populated city, and more stories of tragedy and violence are being reported as authorities continue to uphold the country’s unbending “Zero-COVID” protocols.

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Young children taken away to quarantine alone

According to reports by CBS News and The New York Times, one of the city’s policies has seen parents being separated from their babies and young children if they test positive for COVID-19. China’s strict virus protocols insist that any person testing positive for COVID-19 must be separated and quarantined from those who are not — which includes infants, toddlers, and young children.

In efforts to keep track of every citizen’s health status, everyone in China is required to have a mobile phone reflecting their COVID status. 

People with green health codes are allowed to travel freely. Those with yellow or red codes are not allowed to visit public places such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants etc. The affected individual has to then report all close contacts to health authorities, undergo quarantine and several nucleic acid tests before they can be cleared and given a green status again.

Those who test positive, however, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms or require medical care, are taken away by pandemic staff to government facilitated quarantine sites, and told to remain there until they test negative. 

Shanghai health commission defends separations, calling them ‘crucial’

On April 4, Shanghai Municipal Health Commision official Wu Qianyu said in a press briefing that, “If the child is younger than seven years old, those children will receive treatment in a public health center.” 

Wu insisted the separations were crucial to Shanghai’s authorities “prevention and control work,” adding that, “We have made it clear that children whose parents also test positive… can live in the same place as the children, provided they meet ‘certain conditions’.”

As authorities stick to upholding COVID guidelines, photos and videos of crying children forcefully separated from their parents are surfacing across the internet. Although the videos incited much ire and criticism across social media, the country’s fight against COVID only seems to be worsening, with tragic incidents increasing everyday.

In this video, kindergarten children can be seen forcefully taken away by pandemic staff as they cry out for their parents. (Video: via Twitter)

“Parents need to meet ‘conditions’ to accompany their own children? That’s absurd… it should be their most basic right,” one unnamed commenter wrote on China’s social media platform Weibo.

In another video posted on Twitter, a locked down resident in Shanghai said China’s “man-made disaster,” referencing the country’s unrelenting COVID protocols, was “more damaging than the virus itself.” 

No signs of easing

Authorities in Shanghai initially promised not to lock down the whole city, instead targeting outbreaks with localized lockdowns of specific compounds or districts. However, after weeks of growing case numbers, city officials announced that the citywide lockdowns would have to be extended until further notice.

For several weeks now, residents in Shanghai feared they would be subjected to a prolonged stay-at-home order, similar to what residents in Xi’an went through last December after they were locked down for nearly a month. Desperate residents have taken to social media to show the dreadful situation they are in, as some are driven to the point of insanity, and others find themselves without food and supplies and no way of procuring more.

On April 4, China’s nationwide caseload topped 13,000 for a second day in a row, as the daily infection tally hit rates unseen since the pandemic first began in the central city of Wuhan.