Local authorities' initial plans for a nine-day staggered lockdown in Shanghai have already been dashed, as we reported earlier that the entire city is now under some level of lockdown, despite authorities' promises that the eastern half of the city would see restrictions eased on Friday. And while the CCP scrambles to bring more hospital capacity online to treat the desperately ill (including primarily those who are suffering from non-COVID maladies), locals are complaining that authorities have resorted to separating sick children from their parents in the name of the lockdown.
Parents who brought their children in for treatment have seen them taken by authorities and moved to official quarantine facilities, often leaving families in the dark about their childrens' condition. When both parent and child have tested positive, doctors have used threats to browbeat families into compliance. in some cases, children as young as 3 months old have reportedly been separated from their breast-feeding mothers.
Reuters shared the story of Esther Zhao, a woman who was separated from her 2.5-year-old daughter in Shanghai after the girl came down with a fever.
Esther Zhao thought she was doing the right thing when she brought her 2-1/2-year-old daughter to a Shanghai hospital with a fever on March 26.
Three days later, Zhao was begging health authorities not to separate them after she and the little girl both tested positive for Covid, saying her daughter was too young to be taken away to a quarantine centre for children.
Doctors then threatened Zhao that her daughter would be left at the hospital, while she was sent to the centre, if she did not agree to transfer the girl to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center in the city's Jinshan district.
Despite pleading with doctors for information, parents are often left in the dark, offered few - if any - updates about their child's status.
Since then she has had only one brief message that her daughter was fine, sent through a group chat with doctors, despite repeated pleas for information from Zhao and her husband, who is in a separate quarantine site after also testing positive.
"There have been no photos at all...I'm so anxious, I have no idea what situation my daughter is in," she said on Saturday through tears, while still stuck at the hospital she went to last week. The doctor said Shanghai rules is that children must be sent to designated points, adults to quarantine centres and you're not allowed to accompany the children.
Making matters worse, images of crying children who had been separated from their parents went viral on Chinese social media, filling Zhao with feelings of dread. The photos and videos posted on China's Weibo and Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) social media platforms depicted wailing babies, crowded three to a cot. In one video, a clearly distressed toddler crawled out of a room with four child-sized beds pushed to one side of the wall. Few adults could be seen. While Reuters wasn't able to independently verify the videos, a sources familiar with the facility confirmed their authenticity, and also confirmed that the facility is situated in at the Jinshan District of Shanghai.
While most of these posts had been deleted by the authorities by Saturday, thousands of comments and complaints remained on the sites.
Some of the videos have survived on American social media.
上海人的孩子们也被反人类的强制隔离，惨绝人寰pic.twitter.com/YoxYEWOLoP— Inty (@__Inty__) April 2, 2022
The separation policy is the latest controversy to elicit widespread outrage across Shanghai. It comes after authorities were caught lying about the number of deaths in the city's nursing homes.
The big question now: will this be enough to derail the political career of Li Qiang, the Communist Party secretary of Shanghai and an important ally of President Xi? Li is (or rather, was) expected to be elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful policy-setting body during the National Party Congress later this year.
But considering the number of local officials who have been sacked for their failure to contain local outbreaks, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Li could be next.