Desperation in Shanghai as infected kids are taken from uninfected parents to quarantine

This is just one facet of the desperation in the city as it enters an aimless lockdown but it’s an unusually horrifying one. Trump’s policy of separating children from their migrant parents at the border caused such an uproar in the U.S. that it was quickly abandoned, a rare case of him backing down on immigration. Imagine a country applying a policy like that to its own citizens, though, and not because they’ve done anything wrong but because a child happened to catch COVID while their parent was lucky enough not to be infected.


If you were in that situation, wouldn’t you *want* to be infected? Given a choice between catching the virus from my kid and remaining COVID-free but having that kid torn out of my arms and whisked away to destinations unknown by the authorities, I’d do everything in my power to catch the virus so that we could quarantine together. That kid would be breathing in my face all day long, by design.

Remember that Shanghai originally called for a short two-stage lockdown in order to test everyone in the city — a population of 26 million people. Half the city would lock down for five days, then the other half would. That was supposed to end tomorrow morning. It’s now been extended. Until when? God only knows. A CNN reporter believes it could be … months.

Privations in Shanghai are beginning to take their toll as residents hunker down indefinitely. One American who works in China and lives in Shanghai with his family reported over the weekend that they were running low on food and had no guarantee of finding a reliable supply. He can’t leave his home so the only option is delivery. But because everyone in the city — one of the biggest on earth — is in the same predicament, demand for deliveries has been crushing and often prohibitive.


He and some neighbors were eventually able to make a bulk purchase. Not everyone may be so lucky. “We have nothing now — oil, rice, all kinds of stuff. It’s too hard. I set an alarm at 6 a.m. but I still can’t get rice,” one post on Chinese social media read, per CNN. The most notorious problem to emerge is child separation, though, which apparently broke big on Chinese social media when this clip of kids taken from their parents due to a positive test went viral:


That footage was supposedly taken at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, which claimed later that it was simply in the process at the time of transferring the kids to another wing where more medical personnel were available. Even so, one Chinese woman happened to see it — and recognized her own son, the first update she’d been given on his whereabouts in days.

One mother in Shanghai who also only wanted to be identified by her surname, Zhang, said in an interview that her 2-year-old boy was taken away from her on Monday after the child and both parents tested positive for Covid-19. Since her son was sent to the facility in Jinshan, Ms. Zhang, who is being treated at another hospital, said she has received only one phone call, to ask about his medical history, from the doctors in Jinshan…

Ms. Zhang said the next time she saw her 2-year-old was when the video went viral on China’s internet.

“It was only two seconds but I recognized him immediately,” Ms. Zhang said.

As public outrage at the policy has risen (even a local bureaucrat called it “gut-wrenching”), more effort has been made to keep parents apprised of their children’s location. Except that, China being China, the proof of life clips being sent are more reminiscent of hostage videos, with kids seemingly and understandably traumatized:

Just before noon on Saturday, she said she received a video from the hospital: It was her daughter, the first glimpse she had received in four days. In the video, a doctor standing by her daughter’s bed told her to smile. A nurse asked her daughter if she treated her well and told her to nod if so.

“My heart aches seeing this. My daughter’s facial expression was very stiff. She looked very confused and unnatural,” said Ms. Zhu, who still doesn’t know when she will have a chance to see her daughter again.


What is the endgame here, exactly?

China has moved more than 30,000 medical personnel, including 2,000 from the People’s Liberation Army, into Shanghai to assist with daily testing. They’re doing it “batch-style,” in which samples from 10 different people are processed as a single sample; if the sample is negative, all 10 are cleared. That allows China to speed things up, but even so: How often can they comprehensively test a city of 26 million people, a population nearly as big as Texas’s? If they test the whole city once a week, they’re bound to get some positives. Do they just keep doing weekly testing until everyone — literally everyone — is negative? Or is there some minimum threshold of positives China is willing to tolerate?

Why would there be, with a variant as contagious as Omicron? A “minimum threshold” of cases is destined to balloon again into a wave.

To hear officials there tell it, there are only a few hundred symptomatic cases in Shanghai but thousands of asymptomatic ones. If asymptomatic infections justify mass testing, they’ll be doing mass testing forever. “Zero COVID” is a box canyon policy-wise.

Here’s a little more from Reuters on the state of the city. There’s so much testing to be done that residents are being awakened before daybreak to have their samples taken.


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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024