New Zealand seeks reassurance from China that children can stay with parents during COVID isolation amid separation reports
Part of the response requires anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be isolated from uninfected people, which includes separating children from their parents.
This has been criticized in China, with reports from parents angry at being separated from their offspring. the New York Times reported photos and videos showing young children crying in hospital cribs parked in the hallway of a health center.
The policy was confirmed by a Shanghai health commission official who said it was essential for prevention and control work. Any parents who also tested positive could stay with their children, she said.
But the measure has now drawn the ire of the international community.
Reuters reports that the British and French consulates in China wrote to the Chinese Foreign Ministry last week on behalf of a number of countries – including New Zealand – about the separations.
The outlet says France has asked ‘under no circumstances will parents and children be separated’, while the British Embassy said it was concerned about the policy and wanted assurances that this would not happen with the diplomatic staff.
New Zealand has confirmed its involvement.
“New Zealand has joined in a number of representations to the Chinese authorities regarding aspects of China’s response to COVID-19,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Newshub.
“We reaffirmed our support for China’s COVID mitigation policies, acknowledging that we are going through difficult times, while raising some specific issues.
“This has included seeking assurance regarding a parent’s ability to accompany a child during isolation, treatment or testing related to COVID.
“Our embassy and consulates in China are available to provide consular services to New Zealand citizens.”
Others flagged by Reuters to support the message include Norway, Switzerland and Australia.
A case of a child separated from its mother is documented by the New York Times. The mother felt unwell in late March and went to Shanghai Tongren Hospital with her young child. She tested positive and was separated from her daughter, who was then transferred without her to a center in Jinshan district. She could not contact her child for days.
Conditions at the center were “totally inhumane”, the mother said.
“The doctor sent me a video at noon today,” the mother said on Saturday (local time). “In the whole room there was only one nurse, but I saw about ten minors.”
The center told the NYT the children were being moved to another site.
A similar story appeared in a Reuters article, in which a mother said she had not received any photos of her two-year-old child who was staying in a medical center without her.
“I’m so anxious, I have no idea what situation my daughter is in. The doctor said Shanghai rules are that children should be sent to designated points, adults to quarantine centers and you are not allowed to accompany the children.”
Thousands of Chinese military and medics have been deployed to the financial hub to help with the COVID-19 response. It’s the biggest response in China since Wuhan’s initial lockdown in early 2020.