April 2 (UPI) — Children in Shanghai were separated from their parents Saturday as part of a lockdown policy in the event of a COVID-19-positive test amid a surge in Omicron variant infections.
Photos showed a series of hospital cribs were parked in the hallway of Shanghai Public Health Center in the city’s Jinshin district, and video showed several of the children crying, The New York Times reported.
The Times added that the video could not be independently verified, but the health center said in a statement that the images and video were real and did not deny parents with COVID-19 were separated from their children.
Shanghai officials must respond immediately to provide support and assistance to children left behind as parents who test positive for COVID-19 go under lockdown, Zeng Quen told reporters Saturday at a daily COVID-19 press briefing.
“Children must be guarded and taken care of,” said Zeng, the deputy director of the Civil Affairs Bureau in Shanghai.
Either parent may assign a caregiver for juveniles who can stay home alone, Zeng said. If one is not found, local officials will designate one with the parent’s approval.
For children who cannot stay home alone, local juvenile rescue and protection organizations or local work stations with COVID-19 prevention measures will take care of them.
“The top priority is to guarantee the physical and mental wellbeing of the children,” Zeng said, adding that the situation was “heart-wrenching.”
Zeng also urged neighbors to regularly call to check-in on the elderly living alone and the physically challenged and help them with delivery of meals and daily necessities, noting that some volunteers have been calling seniors living alone every day during the lockdown.
Shanghai’s 25 million residents have almost all been under some form of lockdown this week as the city has struggled to contain the Omicron variant of COVID-19, including restrictions barring people from leaving the community, holding gatherings and quarantine restrictions.
Shanghai’s Disney resort has been temporarily closed since March 21 amid the Omicron surge.
China’s National Health Commission reported last month its first COVID-19 deaths in more than a year.