The death of a four-month-old baby in central China has stoked public anger on social media as frustrations mount over Beijing’s stringent “dynamic zero Covid” policy, which has confined millions to their homes and sparked angry protests.
The girl died after suffering vomiting and diarrhoea while in quarantine at a hotel in the city of Zhengzhou, according to a post by her father, Li Baoliang, on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo on Wednesday.
Li had called an emergency hotline for help after his daughter vomited repeatedly in the early hours of Monday, but when medical staff arrived and the child tested negative for Covid-19, they refused to treat her on the grounds that the case was not urgent. An ambulance finally arrived at night, but took two hours to take the baby to a hospital 60 miles away.
By the time a doctor inspected the baby, it was almost 12 hours after Li had first raised the alarm. The doctor still did not treat the child immediately and shortly after midnight, the father found the baby’s body had turned cold. She was pronounced dead in the early hours of Tuesday, after medical staff failed to resuscitate her, he wrote.
“This is a tremendous shock to us. I could not accept this,” Li wrote, urging the authorities to investigate the incident. “I want justice for my child!”
The news came just weeks after the death of a three-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning in north-west China. Earlier this month, his father blamed health workers in the city of Lanzhou for “indirectly killing” his son by stopping him from taking the boy to a hospital.
Despite China having eased some Covid rules last week, frustrations over the protracted measures have continued to boil over into public displays of discontent. On Monday night, hundreds in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou crashed through lockdown barriers and marched on to streets in a rare protest. Videos of sometimes violent confrontations between angry residents and local Covid control officers are ubiquitous on social media pages.
To address mounting public outcry, the government last week told local authorities to refrain from arbitrary and indiscriminate over-enforcement of antivirus policies, but senior officials also repeatedly insisted that China’s “war” against the pandemic remains firmly in place.
Internet users are expressing anger at the Covid policies and officials responsible for the baby’s death. “The pandemic has gone on for three years and people are still dying from being denied treatment,” one person wrote on Weibo. “Covid control workers: have you got a heart? Have you got children? We cooperate when you impose lockdowns. We cooperate when you want us to do PCR tests. But how many of you have thought about our feelings?”
The Zhengzhou health commission told the official China Newsweek magazine it was investigating the incident.
A rise in infections over the past two weeks has led officials in areas across China to confine families to their cramped apartments or order people into quarantine if a single case is found in their workplace or neighbourhood.
On Thursday, the government reported 23,276 new cases throughout China, 20,888 of them with no symptoms. That included 9,680 in Guangzhou, this week’s biggest hotspot.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press