Death of 3-year-old boy stokes fresh anger at China’s ‘zero COVID’ policy
Chinese officials are trying to quell an outcry over the death of a 3-year-old boy from a quarantined residential compound that added to public anger at anti-COVID controls that have confined millions of people to their homes.
The boy died at a hospital in Lanzhou of carbon monoxide poisoning blamed on a gas leak. His father accused health workers who were enforcing the compound’s closure of refusing to help and trying to stop him as he rushed his son to the hospital.
The father’s account on social media prompted angry comments about the human cost of the ruling Communist Party’s “zero COVID” strategy that has confined families to cramped apartments for weeks at a time to fight outbreaks.
The quarantine system is intended “to protect life and health, not to confront those who need to be rescued with obstacles!” said a post on the popular Sina Weibo social media service.
The ruling party is sticking to zero COVID at a time when other governments are easing anti-virus controls. That has kept China’s infection numbers relatively low but disrupts business and travel.
Residents of many parts of the Xinjiang region in the northwest were barred from leaving their homes in August and September. People in Urumqi and other cities who said they had run out of food and medicine posted appeals for help on social media.
China’s economic juggernaut hits a roadblock: Xi Jinping’s inflexibility on the draconian ‘zero COVID’ lockdown policy.
Public frustration has boiled over into fights with police and health workers in some places.
The Lanzhou city government expressed “deep sorrow and regret” for the boy’s death in a statement and blamed “weak emergency response.” It said public employees who were found to have responded poorly would be “dealt with seriously.”
The boy’s father said he tried to call an ambulance after his son collapsed Monday after a possible gas leak at home. The father wrote that he asked health workers at the compound gate for help but they told him to ask someone else and asked him to show a negative virus test. The father wrote that he wound up taking his son by taxi to a hospital, where doctors failed to revive him.
China’s leaders are clinging to their disastrous zero-COVID policy, because it worked in 2020. The regime’s authoritarian structure makes it very hard to change once a number is set.
In a statement on its social media account, the city government said investigators found an employee at a neighborhood checkpoint told the father to call the emergency number when he asked for help.
Lanzhou Mayor Zhang Weiwen visited the neighborhood Thursday and promised to “open up the ‘last mile’ for the masses to seek medical treatment,” the government newspaper Lanzhou Daily reported.
The government promised to “deeply learn from the painful lessons of this accident,” the newspaper said.
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