The Perfect Enemy | China Covid: Anger at reports baby died due to delayed treatment
December 1, 2022
Read Time:3 Minute
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Reports that a baby died in China because her medical care had been delayed by Covid restrictions have prompted a huge outcry online.

Anger erupted after a father in Zhengzhou said paramedics had refused to see his four-month-old daughter, who was vomiting and had diarrhoea.

She died later the same day. An investigation is under way.

The news follows numerous reports of people struggling to access healthcare under China’s strict zero-Covid policy.

With more than 20,000 cases a day, China is experiencing a major wave of the virus for the first time in six months. Zhengzhou, in central Henan province, is a current hotspot.

Multiple Chinese news outlets are reporting on how Li Baoliang and his four-month-old daughter were isolated in a quarantine hotel in the city on 12 November, after Li’s wife tested positive.

Two days later, he says his daughter became unwell and was struggling to eat.

He called an ambulance but paramedics required that the hotel carry out antigen tests before agreeing to see them, he told China News Weekly. As his daughter tested negative, he said medical staff then outright refused to see the child “on the grounds that she was not seriously ill”.

As her symptoms worsened, he called for a second ambulance in the evening. However, rather than take them to a hospital near the hotel, they were taken to one “nearly 100km from Zhengzhou” in the city of Dengfeng.

Once there, Li said his daughter’s temperature “dropped sharply” and she died.

“When I heard, the news was like a bolt from the blue and I just couldn’t handle it,” Mr Li posted on Chinese social network Sina Weibo. He and his wife are currently being isolated at a Dengfeng hospital, and their daughter’s body is still in the morgue, Phoenix News reports.

The Zhengzhou Municipal Health Commission has said it is investigating.

A volunteer wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sorts bags of living necessities at the entrance of a locked-down residential community on November 7, 2020 in Zhengzhou

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Tens of millions of people have read Mr Li’s story, with more than 9,000 users responding to the original report by China News Weekly. None are available to view because they have been censored and comments have also been removed from Mr Li’s Weibo post.

So users have taken to commenting elsewhere on the social network, with some criticising what they perceive as China’s “one-size-fits-all” strategy to combat the virus.

“I am not opposed to epidemic prevention, but we must take care of key groups,” one says.

Many believe this is far from an isolated case.

“How many deaths have there been due to delayed healthcare?” one asks. “Are vulnerable groups being protected?”

“I’m heartbroken and angry,” says someone else. “But there are so many stories like this.”

“It’s not the virus that kills people, but excessive epidemic prevention measures,” another adds.

China’s official death toll for Covid is 5,226, a figure which hasn’t changed since May.

But there have been repeated stories of delayed emergency treatment for seriously ill people in locked down areas or quarantine facilities.

Earlier this month there were angry demonstrations in the western city of Lanzhou after a father said delays in getting his toddler son to hospital had contributed to his death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Last week officials in the northwest region of Xinjiang began investigating whether a man died due to neglect at a quarantine facility – he’d called for an ambulance and none was sent, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

Earlier this week, there were reports – also now being investigated – that a woman miscarried in the southwestern city of Chongqing “after coronavirus restrictions resulted in treatment delays”.

Since the start of the pandemic, China has stressed the importance of maintaining a “dynamic zero-Covid strategy”, which essentially means isolating people – even if they are asymptomatic – once they test positive for the virus.

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