Caught in the Shanghai Lockdown w/ Children

Shanghai, China

If you’re unaware of the recent, draconian COVID-preventative measures taken by the government of China, allow us to bring you up to speed:

In late March, 2022, the Chinese government imposed a severe lockdown on the entire city of Shanghai, an area of over 26 million residents. Going far beyond anything experienced in the U.S. or European Union, the Shanghai lockdown demands all 26 million residents stay in their homes, 24/7. This has been in effect going on 5 weeks.

Faced with outrage from citizens, Chinese health officials held to their position, reporting they will continue to separate COVID-positive babies and children from their parents. The impact on a child, especially an English-speaking, Western-born child forcibly separated from their parents and taken to a Chinese detention hospital will be profound. To compound the trauma, visitation at these facilities is prohibited unless the parent also tests COVID-positive, in which case they can remain with their child. (See Google search results for more details.)

Shanghai is home to upwards of 40 International Schools, making it home to hundreds of expat educators and their children. China, overall, hosts 600 International Schools. What’s to prevent this brand of quarantine from spreading? Communist Party officials have already announced plans to move people from their homes in Pingwang, to Zhejiang Province for no less than a week while they sanitize the city. In Beicai, residents were told to move to temporary accommodations. The relocation order requires entry doors to remain unlocked and closet doors open.

ISR asks: If you are an educator living/teaching in China and accompanied by your children, how do you cope with this situation? Why haven’t you packed up and left?

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

32 thoughts on “Caught in the Shanghai Lockdown w/ Children

  1. NZ has a teacher shortage – same for rural Australia. They wouldn’t be international schools but you definitely have an interesting time. @ Katweasal- parents are not now being separated from their children, but it did happen. Older and ill individuals were also separated from their carers. There is a variety of trustworthy first-hand evidence to this.

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    1. The Point is, Parents are not being separated from their children. You say ‘was’ exactly this happened two years ago. In this present lock down and outbreak parents have not been separated. So to say they are being as the original poster wrote, is purely scare mongering. Yes things are difficult I should know I have been confined with my family in my compound for the last two months. Is it unbearable ? well that depends on you individually. What I do see though here are many people directly and indirectly just taking a pop at China. Will I stay who knows

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  2. Like many have said, the child separation policy has been changed, especially for foreigners. It may still be true for local Chinese, but we don’t hear about it as much in the news. On the job front, I live in Shanghai and I know MANY foreigners who will be leaving China at the end of the semester. I’ve been under lockdown in my compound for almost 2 months and the end does not seem near. I do not own a US/UK/Aus/NZ/South African passport, but China still treats me as foreigner teacher, but that’s probably one of the only two reasons keeping me here… but maybe just for another year. It’s too soon for my family to pack up and leave and find a new job in a new country in 2 months. I’ll probably look for a a new job next school year and try to move somewhere else.

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  3. “What’s to prevent this brand of quarantine from spreading?” — It is already the new normal across China. Other major cities have already built mass quarantine camps in expo centers, and they are in use. My city has lockdown areas where cases have been found. The only thing separating us from Shanghai is that there isn’t a large outbreak at the moment (yet). My bags are packed and I am ready to go to the airport with just a few hours’ notice. I will finish the school year and then I am leaving China and never coming back.

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  4. Why would anyone want to go to China nowadays? The measures being utilized to stop the spread have shown they don’t work. And China certainly is not going to follow the lead of more developed nations to implement a plan to live with the virus that their government is responsible for unleashing on the world to begin with. The way China handled matters in the beginning shows a lack of systems in place for such/similar disasters along with a total disregard for human life. Xi’s refusal to accept help from developed nations with the wherewithal to handle the situation more effectively is proof positive that face is more important than human lives to the China government.

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    1. ” their government is responsible for unleashing on the world to begin with.” oh dear me – and Spanish Flu and Swine flu was the USA’s fault ? Viruses are no ones fault

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  5. Just stopping by to say that China is not the only place where this has been happening. We lived this experience in Thailand a few months ago. When my daughter (age 11) contracted Covid at the end of December, she was taken to an isolation facility (in her case, a converted hotel rather than a field hospital) and held there for 10 days while my husband and I were instructed to quarantine at home as close contacts. My daughter is an older child and fairly independent, but it was not a good experience for her.

    Rules are easing here in Thailand now to allow home isolation in most cases unless patients have underlying conditions or severe symptoms, but that’s not the case in all Asian countries. My best wishes for those who test positive and are forced into isolation centers, especially when that involves separating small children from their parents. It sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I lived and worked in Shanghai as a single person. If I had kids, I would NEVER want them in a country where there is NO freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, etc. Look up the word “totalitarian regime” and you will find China. The only country more oppressive than China is North Korea. I’m sure there will be angry responses from people tellling how wonderful China is and they had an ayi who was also a housemaid making it easy to be a working mom, etc. Aside from the governmental issues, what about exposure of your precious children to heavy air, water, and food contamination? If, as an adult, I choose to go there, the choice is on me. If, as a parent, I choose that for my children well then I made a very bad decision indeed. All the expats I know are playing the “If I follow the rules it won’t happen to me or my kids. If I am careful enough, if I blah, blah, blah…” I sure hope they are right and I pray I am wrong.

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    1. ” All the expats I know are playing the “If I follow the rules it won’t happen to me or my kids. If I am careful enough, if I blah, blah, blah…” I sure hope they are right and I pray I am wrong.” What will not happen to me ? Children are not being separated from parents – I m in Shanghai now

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m not in shanghai and I’m pretty confident the local gov will separate my kids. Very confident actually.

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  7. In China for over a decade and I love it here! But my biggest fear is quarantine for my kids. I think I can handle it and I think my kids can handle it but why would I ever electively choose to take that chance? I will regret it forever if my children are taken from me and I’m not going to hang my hat that throwing a “laowai” tantrum and threatening foreign media is going to keep us safe. We are leaving this year and we are very sad that this is the terms we are leaving. We love our experience here and so hope that things will change so others can enjoy it as much as we have this past decade. Now I’m just holding my breath that we don’t get caught up in a round up of cases or close contacts before we go.

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  8. Not to disregard individual concerns but “The impact on a child, especially an English-speaking, Western-born child forcibly separated from their parents and taken to a Chinese detention hospital will be profound” – not profound for non-Western, non-English speaking kids?

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    1. I don’t see it this way. The post doesn’t say that the situation is not traumatic for all kids. It says that it is especially profound for western non-Chinese speaking kids. I understand that the original comment referred to Chinese and non-Chinese kids. Not western and Asian kids. A kid who doesn’t speak Chinese most likely hasn’t been in the country for a long time.
      Yes, the situation is more profound for the western kids. Let’s see why.
      Western kids who don’t speak the language, vs. Chinese kids who speak the language – Chinese kids can communicate their needs and understand what is going on.
      Western kids who don’t speak the language most likely eat western food or just a little Chinese food. Chinese kids eat Chinese food.
      Western kids who have lived here for a short time most likely aren’t used to using squat toilets, Chinese kids most likely are.
      I could go on with further comparisons. I believe that these I mentioned highlight why I believe that the experience is more traumatic for western kids. If the situation was reversed, I would say that the experience would be more traumatic for the Chinese kids.
      I believe a better way to make the same statement is that the experience is more profound with expat kids than it is with local kids.

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    2. They are making the point from the view of a western expat teacher, on a website full of reviews and discussions from western style International Schools. Stop trying to find some sort of offense where there is none. The children of expat teachers in China would likely have a way worse time in forced quarantine than Chinese kids. Making that point doesn’t remove the fact you could make the same point about hundreds of other groups.

      Get a grip and look for something to get upset about somewhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I spent five incredible years in Beijing at a tier one school. My contract ended in June 2019 and I am thankful I came home when I did. My former colleagues still there haven’t seen family in two years; sone have mental health issues, and now they are stuck with school closures. The most v harrowing story was my former colleague who returned to the states for CNY and then spent 46 days in quarantine! The first thirty was in a hotel in Shanghai. Her daily posts were getting alarming: by the time she was allowed to head to Beijing, the hotel was serving powdered eggs three meals a day. The food shortage is real. I agree that the glory days of teaching in China are over.

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  10. The whole separation from kids thing is pretty inhumane. I’m currently on lock down (not allowed to leave my apartment) in China as well but there is a bright side. The school still pays us in full. Work is drastically reduced. The government provides free groceries delivered to the door which is actually quite fresh. A lot of other expats are leaving so tier 1 schools have become much more accessible.

    That being said, I definitely feel governmental shift to running a tigher ship in education. Profit driven bilingual schools won’t be fun to work for as they try to please the government while also implementing a western curriculums. If there is an exodus of foreigners overall, I can only imagine the true international schools shrinking as well. The only ‘stable’ schools to work for will probably be international departments of Chinese public schools that are well connected with the government, but those schools are often under Chinese management with doesn’t jive with a lot of people.

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  11. It is time to leave China and I think that’s what China hasn’t wanted all along. We live in southern Guangzhou and although we have fared reasonably well, it is downright terrifying. You never know when your code will turn yellow and you’ll be locked away. I am counting down the minutes until I can finally leave and see family I haven’t seen in almost two years! I don’t see how it will possibly end any year soon. Sad times here.

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  12. Yeah, this is quite old news and parents and children are quarantining together. Lots of foreign teachers have been put into the quarantine system, where they have an extremely difficult time with no showers, have to use portaloo bathrooms and sleep in a expo center alongside thousands of other asymptomatic people with 24/7 fluorescent lights. Genuinely the scariest thing that could happen to someone in this outbreak.
    That being said – I’m sticking it out in Shanghai. The staff turnover will be harsher than usual – for sure. About 5 people resigned from my school, but they’ve already been replaced. The top international schools will poach from second tier and second tier will poach from the bilingial schools and so on… The past 2 weeks have been a frenzy of resignations and hiring and there are a lot of young teachers who would have never been competitive getting snapped up by quality international schools. I imagine the actual international schools will be fully staffed by September.
    I personally don’t see why anyone in their right mind would come to Shanghai from abroad – the process for the PU letter is absurd and the chances of your flight not being cancelled aren’t great – and if you watch the news you know how people are being treated. But that being said – there are a lot of international schools in countries which don’t treat their people well so maybe this whole expat exodus is overblown.

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    1. Exactly! Everything you said. Conditions are illogical and horrible. Not sure if one can manage lack of trust… but if I look at options around the world, none of them are good nor guaranteed. It is tough to make decisions because we always have hope for the horror to end and desire not to have made a decision to spin oneself into just another realm of chaos .

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  13. Aboid China. We have been here since 2018 and in the counrty since dec 2019. It is awful. Like an open air prison. Go somewhere civilized.

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  14. Teacher in Shanghai here! The government made a u-turn on this a few weeks ago. You’re pretty late to the party. Negative parents can now quarantine with their children. Anyway most westerners aren’t actually taken. All you have to do is kick up a stink, tell them you will be live streaming everyday and sending all your clips to BBC/CNN. They don’t want the bad press. China dream very much over, this is no place for my child to grow up. There are no freedoms here. It is estimated that 40% of expat teachers are leaving this summer and I don’t see how intl schools are going to survive. You’d have to be mad to come here! Avoid China at all costs.

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    1. You say that but I’m still reading accounts of foreigners being sent to fangcang. I stay up to date on Twitter since it is the only place to find out what’s going on.

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  15. Following! I accepted a position in January but we are seriously considering breaking our contract because of this issue precisely. I have asked so many people but no one seems to know anyone in person who actually went through this. Some people tell me we’re crazy if we go. Would love to know the opinion of actual parents already living in China.

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    1. Even if you aren’t a parent I would seriously question the sanity of going to China right now. Colleagues are in Shanghai and Beijing currently and are increasingly worried that they will be put into quarantine, relocated, locked down again, or won’t be able to leave for their flights out in June. They are all leaving this year and some are so traumatized they don’t plan to teach internationally anymore. No amount of money is worth living under some of these measures. I don’t think you will be viewed as unreasonable if you were to break that contract. There are only a few countries still engaging in these quarantine and isolation procedures and it’s probably a good idea to avoid them until this is all over.

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    2. It is actually possible to leave, even from Shanghai – it’s difficult, but possible. If you have a confirmed flight, then the local committee is supposed to allow you to travel to the airport. What’s happening is that some local committees are so scared of getting COVID out, that they are refusing to issue the permit letters to anyone. If that’s the case then people can contact the Consulate (the British Consul has confirmed this) who will intervene to get the letters issued. In addition, though few and far between and expensive, there still seem to be a very small number of Didi cars operating in Shanghai – not all the drivers were able to return to their compounds or homes.

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    3. I am not in Shanghai so I can’t speak about the situation over there any better than anyone else reading the news. In general, the tone I read in the NYT articles and columns doesn’t match my experience. I have been in China for 4 years, lived in 2 places, and luckily never went through a lockdown. In the last two years, my school was closed for only one day due to COVID.
      That said, my family and I do feel in a golden cage. We fear more quarantine and intensive testing than catching the virus. Therefore, we haven’t traveled around.
      Regarding coming into the country, my school has managed to bring in all teachers that have been recruited from outside of China, but we haven’t been able to bring in dependents. We are losing a colleague whose family has been in another country while he was teaching here because the school couldn’t get his family in.
      If I was single, or a teaching couple without kids, I most likely would still give it a shot to come. With kids I would most likely not try.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I accepted my dream job in China last year. We are an older couple with my husband being my dependent. With all of the dependent visa issues, last year, I gave back word at the beginning of June – rendering me jobless for August. Fortunately, I managed to secure an equally good job in the country I was already in at a top school. I went with my gut and I have no regrets. Good luck with your decision.

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    5. Do NOT go. Every expat I know in China with kids is leaving. Even people who have been there 10+ years. Do you understand what “total control” means? Social credit? Arbitrary exit ban? Medical care rationing? Industrial level air/water/food pollution? If you just want to go somewhere that you can afford a maid/nanny pick another country. Please. Your poor little children ripe for indoctrination. The international schools are full of CHINESE who have American passports because their moms flew to the USA to give birth (get citizenship) and then flew back to China immediately.Certainly NOT an international school by my definition and I am even speaking of Tier 1 schools now. But I suppose you will think you know better so fly on.

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    6. I am not in fear of my son being taken away from me “English-speaking, Western-born child forcibly separated from their parents and taken to a Chinese detention hospital will be profound” Because this is simply not true. Parents are NOT being separated from children. I am in Shanghai – I should know.

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    7. This is old news. The policy changed 2 weeks ago. Now parents just have to sign a waiver that they are aware of the risks of getting covid-19 if they go with their children to the hospital. We have friends whose child got covid-19 and they did exactly this. A few days later the rest of the family tested positive and they have all been at the hospital together which is lucky. Normally the adults get separated.

      They’ve been there for 6 days but now everyone has tested negative. After 4 days of testing negative, you get to go home. So they should be home after 10 days total.

      Annoying but not the end of the world. We are in Shanghai right now. Be aware that you will have to be in a low quality hotel if/when you come to China. Make sure you have enough stuff to keep entertained.

      Liked by 1 person

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