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Hong Kong leader seeks to allay concerns about child separations in Covid quarantine | Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has responded to concerns that young children will be separated from their parents in quarantine centers as the city seeks to control its latest Covid-19 outbreak.

So far, more than 120 cases have been recorded in a group linked to a high-end Hong Kong gym popular with the expat and financial community. It has caused the temporary closure of the US consulate, sudden closures of residential buildings for mass testing and hundreds have been quarantined, leading to pleadings alarming family separations.

Under Hong Kong’s quarantine rules, which are among the strictest in the world and have been in effect since last year, any positive cases are sent to the hospital for isolation and all close contacts are quarantined at a government facility. for two weeks, including children. Subject to case-by-case assessment, the family could organize caregivers to accompany people with special needs, such as babies, the government said.

In a regular briefing on Tuesday, Lam said the government “did not have a policy of deliberately separating children from their parents,” but that public health concerns had to be respected.

“When the close contacts are the parents’ young children … exceptionally we will also allow the children to be admitted to the hospital, where there will be appropriate arrangements,” he said.

But Shahana Hoque-Ali, who moderates Hong Kong’s quarantine support group on Facebook, said she had helped in more than 100 cases of children who had faced separation from their parents over the past year, including dozens a week. pass.

“It’s crazy,” said one mother, who claimed she had to abruptly stop breastfeeding after separating from her seven-month-old son last week after being diagnosed with Covid-19. “Last night I had a fever because I went from breastfeeding to 100% extraction,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

Others have described quarantine centers without facilities such as refrigeration or baby services.

At least 750 people have been sent to quarantine facilities in the latest outbreak, including 118 children as of Monday, the South China Morning Post reported. Eight babies and parents who attended a child care group last week with a parent who later tested positive were also quarantined at a government facility.

The US consulate said it was aware that many US citizens in Hong Kong were “concerned about local government testing, quarantine and hospitalization procedures, particularly with regard to the possible separation of children from their parents.” He said he was “actively addressing” the concerns, “at the highest level of the Hong Kong government.”

A petition calling for young people to be isolated at home has received around 5,000 signatures, but has also raised concerns about different rules or exemptions for some groups based on nationality.

Lam confirmed that the children of an American couple, who worked at the consulate and tested positive, had been allowed to stay in hospital isolation with them, but denied there was “special treatment”, saying it was in line with arrangements for exceptional cases. circumstances.

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