- Some Hong Kong parents say their infants were tied to beds to stop them from moving around during quarantine.
- The authorities say that restraints were used for the children’s’ safety and wellbeing.
- Health officials were also criticised on their treatment of breastfeeding mothers in isolation.
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Hong Kong health authorities have come out in defense of their practices of tying infants and children to beds while in Covid-19 isolation wards, saying restraints were used only for the infants’ safety.
The Hong Kong Standard, a local news outlet, reported that social media posts had erupted in recent weeks from families who had been sent into mandatory quarantine, who allege that they have been separated from their children, and ordered not to breastfeed babies.
Similarly, a Reuters article this week also reported that families said they were suffering isolation and trauma from having babies separated from parents, and that those with newborns had been “herded” into small quarantine rooms for 14 days.
The US consulate told the Guardian it was aware that many Hong Kong citizens were “concerned about local government testing, quarantine, and hospitalization procedures, particularly in regard to the possible separation of children from their parents.”
The consulate added it was “actively addressing” the concerns “at the highest level of the Hong Kong government.”
According to Reuters, a city-wide petition was circulating online this week, asking the government to let young children quarantine at home.
This wave of online criticism has prompted the local health authorities to defend their practices.
“Generally speaking, the hospital will only consider the application of physical restraint on pediatric patients for the safety and well-being of the patient,” the Hong Kong hospital authority said in a statement this week.
“Appropriate and prior consent will be sought from the parents or guardians,” it added.
Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said this week as well that the government “had no policy to deliberately separate children from their parents,” but that people would have to “respect” public health concerns.
Hong Kong has strict quarantine guidelines, which has helped, in part, to keep its COVID infection rate relatively low. The city has recorded 11,340 total cases and 203 deaths since the pandemic began.
The city’s regulations mandate that those who test positive for COVID are immediately isolated and that close contacts will have to fulfill a mandatory stay in government quarantine camps.