Delayed Treatment Due to Covid-19 Restrictions Results in Child’s Death
Theresa Erna Jürgenssen
East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
China’s zero-Covid policy is creating increased tension among Chinese residents. Most recently, the death of a four-month-old girl has led to loud objections to the policy by the public. They blamed the strict Covid prevention measures for having delayed medical care that the girl had been in urgent need of (Allen, 2022).
On November 12, in Zhengzhou, a city in the Henan province, Li Baoliang, his four-month-old daughter, and his wife quarantined in a hotel in the city due to a positive Covid-test (Allen, 2022). Soon after, the four-month-old started feeling unwell, stopped eating, and eventually began vomiting and having diarrhoea. Her father called the ambulance but was told by the paramedics that they would only see her under the condition that she take an antigen test. According to Li Baoliang, his daughter tested negative, yet the paramedics still refused “on the grounds that she was not seriously ill” (Allen, 2022). When an ambulance finally came, they did not bring them to the nearest hospital but one that was nearly 100 kilometres outside the city (Allen, 2022). According to news reports, it took 11 hours until the girl finally received medical attention (The Asahi Shimbun, 2022). However, it was already too late, as she died soon upon arrival (Allen, 2022).
In response, the Zhengzhou Municipal Health Commission announced an investigation into the death. Thousands of people angrily responded to the news on social media. All comments on social media were, however, removed by the authorities (Allen, 2022).
This is not the first time that China’s zero-Covid policy has led to delay in medical treatments alongside a lack of vaccines, food, and sanitary conditions. Only a few weeks ago, a lockdown in the city of Lanzhou had prevented a three-year old boy from receiving potentially life-saving treatment (BBC, 2022). In October, a fourteen-year-old girl died in a quarantine facility after not having received any medical attention from the health workers at the facility (BBC, 2022). Another lockdown allegedly resulted in a miscarriage after a pregnant woman had not been allowed to leave the area under lockdown despite urgently needing medical care (Zhang, 2022).
These accounts are worrisome and indicate possible violations by China of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) :
- Article 6 CRC recognizes that every child has the right to life and obliges State Parties to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
- Under Article 3 CRC the best interest of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.
- Article 24 CRC requires States to recognize children’s rights to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, which includes obligations to diminish infant and child mortality (paragraph 2(a)), to ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children (paragraph 2(b)), and to ensure appropriate prenatal health care for mothers (paragraph 2(d)).
Ensuring the health and survival of children should be of the utmost priority; children must have access to prompt and efficient medical attention, which must not be unnecessarily impeded.
 Ratified by China in 1992 (OHCHR).
Sources and further reading:
Allen, K. (2022, November 18). China Covid: Anger at reports baby died due to delayed treatment. BBC. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-exodus-11112022223647.html.
BBC (2022, October 20). China anger over death of girl, 14, sent to Covid quarantine. BBC. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-63324655.
BBC (2022, November 03). China Covid: Lockdown delayed potentially lifesaving treatment for sick boy, father says. BBC. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-63482682.
The Asahi Shimbun. (2022, November 17). Chinese leaders face anger over 2nd child’s quarantine death. The Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14770605.
OHCHR. (n.d.). Ratification Status for China. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-63663963.
Zhang, P. (2022, November 13). Chinese city to investigate claim that Covid rules led to miscarriage. South China Morning Post. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3199460/chinese-city-investigate-claim-covid-rules-led-miscarriage.