Chinese leaders face anger over 2nd child’s quarantine death

BEIJING: Chinese authorities faced more public anger on Thursday (Nov 17) after a second child’s death was blamed on overzealous anti-virus enforcement, adding to frustration at controls that are confining millions of people to their homes and sparking fights with health workers.

The 4-month-old girl died after suffering vomiting and diarrhoea while in quarantine at a hotel in the central city of Zhengzhou, according to news reports and social media posts. They said it took her father 11 hours to get help after emergency services baulked at dealing with them and she finally was sent to a hospital 100km away.

The death came after the ruling Communist Party promised this month that people in quarantine wouldn’t be blocked from getting emergency help following an outcry over a 3-year-old boy’s death from carbon monoxide in the northwest. His father blamed health workers in the city of Lanzhou, who he said tried to stop him from taking his son to a hospital.

Internet users expressed anger at the ruling Communist Party’s zero-COVID strategy and demanded that officials in Zhengzhou be punished for failing to help the public.

“Once again, someone died because of excessive epidemic prevention measures,” one user wrote on the popular Sina Weibo platform. “They put their official post above everything else.”

The ruling party promised last week to ease quarantine and other restrictions under its zero-COVID strategy, which aims to isolate every infected person. But Chinese leaders are trying to dispel hopes the measures might end as other governments ease controls and try to live with the virus.

Zero-COVID has kept China’s infection numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries but shuts down neighbourhoods, schools and businesses for weeks at a time. Residents of some areas complain they are left without food and medicine.

A spike in infections over the past two weeks has led officials in areas across China to confine families to their cramped apartments or order people into quarantine if a single case is found in their workplace or neighbourhood.

On Thursday, the government reported 23,276 new cases in areas throughout the country; 20,888 of them with no symptoms.

That included a total of 9,680 in this week’s biggest hot spot, the southern business centre of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong.

Videos on social media showed angry residents in Guangzhou knocking over barriers set up by white-garbed health workers. The 1.8 million residents of the city’s Haizhu district were confined to their homes last week but some restrictions were lifted on Monday.

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