China authorities apologise after boy dies in COVID-19 lockdown

On Thursday district health authorities published a detailed account of the incident on social media and expressed their “sincere condolences” to the boy’s relatives.

“We sincerely accept criticism and supervision from the media and netizens, and are determined to rectify (mistakes),” they wrote.

The Lanzhou authorities admitted it took more than 90 minutes to dispatch an ambulance after the boy’s father rang an emergency hotline multiple times, and they confirmed lengthy interactions with staff took place at the compound gate.

“This incident exposed blockages in the emergency rescue mechanism, weakness in emergency response capabilities, and the inflexibility of cadres’ work,” their statement said.


Authorities said Tuo had eventually managed to flag a taxi with help from a policeman at another checkpoint.

However, Tuo said he had been forced to break through a checkpoint barrier and that it was a passer-by who helped him flag the ride.

He also claimed he was asked to present a PCR test result by community staff, despite the entire housing compound having been under lockdown and not tested for the previous 10 days.

The tragedy triggered a storm of online criticism of China’s zero-COVID policy, with one related hashtag censored on Weibo after gaining hundreds of millions of views.

“Three years of the COVID pandemic have been his entire life,” read one widely circulated comment.

“Even though I didn’t experience it, I feel like I can’t breathe,” wrote another user.

Tuo said he was later contacted by a person who said they were a retired local official and offered to arrange for Tuo to be sent 100,000 yuan (US$13,743) if he signed a pledge agreeing not to go public or seek redress over the incident.

Tuo said he rejected the offer, instead demanding an explanation for his son’s death.

On Wednesday morning, a funeral for Wenxuan was held in the family’s nearby hometown of Hezheng. Tuo did not attend, for fear of being quarantined on arrival.

Numerous cases of people dying because they were unable to get medical care due to COVID-19 restrictions have drawn viral outrage this year, including during Shanghai’s two-month lockdown.

In January, a senior Chinese official warned hospitals not to turn away patients after a woman’s miscarriage during a lockdown in Xi’an sparked fury. She was refused hospital entry for not having a PCR test result.

Late last month, censors scrubbed posts saying a 14-year-old girl had died in the central city of Ruzhou after falling ill in a quarantine facility and being denied prompt medical care.