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Shanghai separates COVID children from parents, extends lockdown

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Shanghai on Wednesday made concessions on an unpopular COVID isolation policy that has separated children from their parents and sparked a public outcry.

It also extended a citywide lockdown that has left some residents struggling to buy food.

The lockdown of China’s most populous city, which started in parts of Shanghai 10 days ago and has now confined nearly all of its 26 million residents at home, has massively disrupted daily life and business.

Public criticisms of the curbs, part of Beijing’s COVID elimination strategy, have ranged from complaints over crowded and unsanitary quarantine centres to difficulties in buying food or accessing medical treatment.

Shanghai’s case numbers remain small by global standards, but the city has emerged as a test bed for China’s “dynamic clearance” anti-COVID strategy, which seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases and their close contacts.

According to estimates by Nomura, analysts said the restrictions’ impact on the economy was mounting, especially for small businesses, with nearly 200 million people across China under some sort of lockdown.

The most controversial of Shanghai’s practices has been separating COVID-positive children from their parents, which came to the fore on Saturday and triggered widespread anger across the country.

The Shanghai government responded two days ago by allowing parents who were also infected to accompany their children to COVID isolation centres.

However, complaints persisted over children separated from parents who were not COVID-positive.

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