Children as young as seven were held for hours at a school in Beijing before being sent to a two-week central quarantine after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.
The incident, which alarmed parents and observers, came amid a rush of extreme measures imposed on the city over more than 40 cases of the delta variant, part of a national outbreak that has affected at least 16 of China’s 31 provinces. Tighter restrictions are expected after the National Health Commission reported a three-month high on Tuesday, with 93 new locally asymptomatic cases, up from 54 the day before.
Huajiadi Experimental Primary School in Chaoyang District was swiftly closed Monday afternoon after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus, local media reported.
Parents were called to school, but spent hours gathering outside the gate waiting for information on their children trapped inside due to the lockdown. According to reports, school authorities said that all children are being tested and some will have to stay there overnight.
Footage posted on Weibo shows children lining up in front of health workers wearing personal protective equipment, in an oval shape in the dark.
Just before midnight, the headmaster showed up and asked the parents to go home and pack their children’s clothes and bring them the next morning. They were told that at least some of the children would be sent to central quarantine facilities for 14 days, and a parent could accompany them.
“Parents are really worried,” one person said online. “It is very scary when the virus is spreading in densely populated places such as schools, hospitals, military and prisons. I hope the children are safe.”
Authorities also closed another 16 schools in Chaoyang because staff went to the vaccination site to get booster shots at the same time as a teacher who later tested positive.
School closures are among a set of recent measures that are adding to frustration among residents. Half of the flights scheduled at Beijing airport have been canceled, and authorities have urged people not to leave the city, or delay return if they are far away. Elsewhere, cities have been locked down or subjected to mass testing. Shanghai Disneyland was closed for two days and all guests were tested inside before being allowed out on Sunday. Authorities also urged people to stock up on necessities.
A Beijing resident described on social media that he was asked to go into quarantine after spending a few minutes in a hotel lobby where a positive case was identified that day.
One resident described on Twitter: “First I was asked to get tested, then I was told I had to stay home until the results came out, then I was told I had to go to the central quarantine for 14 days, and I was terrified and said so.” “The man from [district government] Take pity, and manage to convince the CDC [Centre for Disease Control] I can isolate him at home.”
“I have not personally known that this many people are under quarantine since I returned to Beijing last year. They are really on their way to speeding up this time.”
It followed other reports of people stranded outside the city due to glitches in China’s health apps, which assign cases based on infections, vaccinations, and travel history to control movement.
Local media reported that the Beijing city government apologized on Tuesday to those affected by the errors.
While there remains widespread support for China’s attempts to keep the infection rate lower than other countries, there is growing frustration with the government’s insistence on stamping out every outbreak as the rest of the world begins to open up.
“What is the point of the endless pursuit of a COVID-zero eradication strategy? The vaccine has also been given to 80%. Is there no trust in local vaccines? We must make coronavirus a part of life.”