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2022-04-06 06:47:31

Shanghai is allowing healthy family members of children infected with the coronavirus to stay together at the city’s centralized quarantine locations, relaxing a policy that previously separated minors from their families, local media reported Tuesday.

The policy has been implemented at a “shelter hospital” — or fangcang — in the city’s Pudong New Area that can house nearly 15,000 patients with mild or no symptoms, according to the media report, citing people in charge of the hospital. The hospital had admitted its first group of 89 children along with at least one family member by Tuesday morning.

The leniency in the city government’s policy came after days of unease by anxious parents scrambling to get information about their children in centralized quarantine centers. Some of the separated children even included infants.

“The policy has come as a big relief to me,” a Shanghai mother surnamed Fang, with children aged 2 and 8, told Sixth Tone.

The shelter hospital in Pudong, which is a refurbished exhibition center, has set aside a separate area for patients as young as 2 years old. Medical staff in charge of the area told local media that nearly 1,000 beds have been arranged to accommodate nearly 500 families.

“More than 80% of the kids’ parents have also been infected,” said the staff dispatched from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. “We provide the small group of COVID-negative parents with corresponding arrangements under the precondition that they’re fully informed of the risks.”

In March, over 300 infected children aged 6 and below were quarantined in Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, previously the city’s only designated hospital to treat COVID patients, according to the city’s top health authority. Parents were barred from accompanying or visiting the children.

“I’m especially worried about my younger child,” Fang said. “The virus could do more harm to him and he’s completely unable to take care of himself or even express himself properly.”

The increasing number of her neighbors getting infected has added to the mother’s anxiety. Shanghai reported another daily high of 17,077 infections for Tuesday, as the city of around 25 million people continues to be in lockdown.

A preprint study, analyzing data from Hong Kong, suggested that the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant of the coronavirus “is not mild as evident by the fatality and severe complications of the uninfected and unvaccinated children.”

Hong Kong separated up to 2,000 children under the age of 10 from their parents after being infected with the virus, according to a local charity. But authorities reversed its decision last week, saying they would allow parents to accompany their children in pediatric wards, regardless of their COVID-19 status.

In Shanghai, the city’s decision has brought relief to parents.

“I can finally sleep well,” Fang said.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)