Anger over reports baby died due to delayed treatment

Residents queue to enter a quarantine hotel in Zhengzhou earlier this month

Reports that a baby died in China because his medical treatment was delayed due to Covid restrictions caused a huge outcry online.

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

He died later that day. An investigation is underway.

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 the central province of Henan, is a current hotspot.

Several Chinese news media reported how Li Baoliang and his four-month-old daughter were isolated in a quarantine hotel in the city on November 12 after Li’s wife tested positive.

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

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

As her symptoms worsened, she called a second ambulance that night. However, instead of being taken to a hospital near the hotel, they were taken to one “almost 100 kilometers from Zhengzhou” in the city of Dengfeng.

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

“When I heard it, 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 in isolation at a Dengfeng hospital, and their daughter’s body is still at the morgue, Phoenix News reports.

The Zhengzhou Municipal Health Commission said it was investigating.

A volunteer wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sorts bags of living goods at the entrance of a sealed-off housing community on November 7, 2020 in Zhengzhou

Many residential communities have been cordoned off in Zhengzhou during the outbreak

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

So users have commented elsewhere on the social network, with some criticizing what they perceive as China’s “one size fits all” strategy to fight the virus.

“I’m not against epidemic prevention, but we need to take care of key groups,” says one.

Many believe that this is far from an isolated case.

“How many deaths were there due to delayed health care?” one asks. “Are vulnerable groups protected?”

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

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

China’s official death toll from Covid is 5,226, a figure that has not changed since May.

But there have been repeated stories of delayed emergency care for the critically ill in quarantine areas or facilities.

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

In October, there were reports of a 14-year-old girl dying in Henan province after falling ill at a Covid quarantine center.

Last week, officials in the northwestern region of Xinjiang began investigating whether a man died due to negligence at a quarantine facility — he had called an ambulance and none was dispatched, the South China Morning Post reported.

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

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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