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China sticks to zero-COVID as quarantine video causes outrage | Coronavirus pandemic News

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As China intensified COVID-19 surveillance in Beijing amid the recent increase in cases, a video of a teenager reportedly being seriously ill was ignored by medical staff at a COVID quarantine center, sparking public outrage over China’s brutal pandemic response.

Beijing, a city of 21 million, reported 18 new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number over the past 10 days to 197 – four times more than 49 infections in the previous 10-day period. .

The numbers may be small compared to other countries, but China’s zero-COVID policy calls for strict measures.

Beijing’s health authority said at-risk individuals and places will be screened, and settlements with suspected cases will be put under a three-day lockdown, with extensions possible if new infections emerge. Health officials said such measures are necessary to “ensure no one is overlooked.”

However, a video posted on social media this week by Chinese health officials apparently staring at a young person in critical condition at a COVID-19 quarantine center in Henan province has received hundreds of thousands of comments and angry calls for a full investigation.

Patrick Fok, a reporter for Al Jazeera from Beijing, said there was no mention of the video in China’s tightly controlled media, but the “sad video” reportedly belonging to a 16-year-old woman was widely shared online in China. .

In the video, the sick teenager and a woman who claims to be the girl’s aunt, who were writhing in bed at a COVID-19 quarantine facility in Ruzhou, Henan, allegedly said that medical assistance had not arrived to help her niece. According to a media report, the young man later died in the center.

“A woman who said she was the girl’s aunt said she went there with six other family members and wasn’t sick when she entered the facility. She also says that the family repeatedly called for help but was ignored,” she said.

“This really caused a huge outburst of anger, with relevant hashtags being viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Chinese social media,” Fok said.

“Looking at this case, President Xi Jinping really emphasized China’s outspoken refusal to move away from its zero-COVID policy, whatever the economic and social consequences, and whatever the seemingly health consequences,” he said.

This video is only the latest expression of public anger at the handling of the pandemic by the Chinese authorities.

Fok said that a bus carrying people to the quarantine center crashed last month and 27 people died.

“This caused a similar outpouring of anger, and there were many other similar cases of being denied assistance in care facilities with medical conditions due to strict COVID-19 controls.”

China has pledged to stick to its strict zero-COVID policy, despite growing public disappointment and the damage it has done to the economy.

Shanghai, like many other Chinese cities struggling with occasional COVID outbreaks, announced this week plans to set up a 3,250-bed quarantine facility on a small island near the city centre. In April-May, the city of 25 million people went into a long-term quarantine after detecting hundreds of thousands of cases.

Other major cities, including Beijing and Guangzhou, have similar quarantine centers with thousands of beds.

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 16, 2022. [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]

Despite widespread public disappointment and economic damage caused by zero-COVID, Xi has said nothing but reiterates the validity of his policy that has made China a global outlier as most of the world struggles to coexist with the virus.

Xi’s refusal to move away from strategy was seen by analysts as a failing social and economic policy, but Chinese officials have repeatedly stressed their commitment to it at the formation of the ruling Communist Party’s National Congress in Beijing this week.