Shanghai relaxes child separation policy amid Covid lockdown frustration

SHANGHAI — Shanghai on Wednesday made some concessions on a largely unpopular Covid child separation 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 in China’s most populous city, which began in parts of Shanghai 10 days ago and has since been extended to confine virtually all of its 26 million residents to their homes, has massively disrupted daily life and business.

Public criticism of the restrictions, which are part of Beijing’s elimination strategy, range from complaints about overcrowded and unsanitary quarantine centers to difficulties buying food or accessing medical care.

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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 sparked widespread anger across the country.

In the face of such criticism, the Shanghai government said two days ago it would relax the policy slightly to allow parents to accompany children if they were also infected. But the children would still be separated from parents who were not Covid-positive, prompting further complaints.

On Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said guardians of special-needs children infected with Covid could now apply to escort them, but would have to abide by 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 were largely a relief to the public, especially among parents, although some questioned why it was still necessary to apply. A hashtag on the subject on Chinese social media platform Weibo drew more than 40 million views on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s the right thing to do, to carry out the management in a humane way,” said a popular Weibo comment.

Shanghai also announced on Wednesday that it would conduct another round of citywide testing, a mix of antigen and nucleic acid testing. Movement restrictions on residents will continue until test results can be assessed, officials said.

There are signs that the curbs, which were originally expected to last around five days for most, are fraying residents’ nerves. Many are beginning to worry about food and drinking water as supermarkets remain closed and deliveries are limited.

Some have complained of having to wake up at dawn to have a chance to book a grocery delivery, only to find them sold out within seconds. Others have turned to WeChat community groups to try and buy fruits and vegetables in bulk.

Liu Min, vice chairman of the Shanghai Commerce Commission, told reporters that authorities were working hard to resolve bottlenecks and take care of people’s “basic living needs”.

She said efforts would be made to ship food and other necessities to Shanghai from other provinces, and to build emergency supply stations in and around the city to ensure the vegetable supply. But she said the biggest challenge was getting home deliveries delivered.

Shanghai will also work to ‘free up delivery capacity’, saying the 11,000 runners working for the city’s major e-commerce platforms could go to work if they submit daily nucleic acid and Covid antigen tests. negative, she added.

Shanghai detected a record 16,766 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on Wednesday, up from 13,086 a day earlier. Symptomatic cases also rose to 311 from 268 the previous day.

While the number of cases in the city remains low by global standards, Shanghai has become a testing ground for China’s “dynamic elimination” Covid elimination strategy, which aims to test, trace and implement centrally quarantine all positive cases and their close contacts.

The city has set up 62 temporary quarantine sites at hotels, stadiums and exhibition centers, and is also converting the National Convention and Exhibition Center into a facility that can accommodate 40,000 people.

Analysts say the impact of current restrictions on the economy is growing, especially for small businesses, with nearly 200 million people across China under some kind of lockdown, according to Nomura estimates.

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