In 'zero-Covid' China, a daughter's struggle to get her father medicine hits a nerve

A Dandong resident is stopped by police for not having the proper documentation as she attempts to pick up medicine at a hospital.

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(CNN)What was meant to be a simple errand, a daughter driving her aging father to the hospital to pick up his medicine, has pulled a small city on China's border with North Korea -- and its nearly two-month Covid-19 lockdown -- into the national spotlight, after the pair ran afoul of pandemic rules.

Video of the scene -- whose related hashtag has been viewed over a billion times on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo -- shows a confrontation between the driver, identified by police as a 41-year-old woman surnamed Hao, her father and a local police officer, who stopped Hao at a security checkpoint because she did not have proper clearance.
In the video, shot in the northeastern city of Dandong, Hao has gotten out of her car and can be heard yelling -- with palpable angst -- that she already took a Covid-19 test, and that her housing community gave her permission to leave to go the hospital to pick up the medicine.
    The police officer blocks her from re-entering the car and pushes her. She then falls to the ground and her father, aged 70, slaps the officer in the face.
      Later in the video, the officer can be seen forcibly dragging Hao out of her car to the ground.
      Hao's apparent transgression? Her health code was not green, but yellow -- a status that meant she was not cleared to travel within the city under local rules that rely on the codes, now ubiquitous in China, to control who can move where.
      In a statement Wednesday, a day after the incident, local police said they had issued Hao a 10-day administrative detention for obstructing their work, while her father had received a "criminal compulsory measure" -- that could result in further charges, according to state media -- on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.
        The two "broke through checkpoints" and were stopped "according to the law," the police statement said, adding that Hao had "refused to cooperate and abide by the epidemic prevention regulations."
        In a separate statement the following day, the police said the results from Hao's test were not yet available, which is why her code was still yellow, and that her father had not taken the required test, according to state-run China News Weekly.
        Hao also responded publicly after the incident, explaining in a widely shared social media video that she was driving to pick up a difficult-to-find medicine for her father, who was recovering from surgery and suffered from a form of neuralgia.
        "With this kind of pain, he can't eat, he can't talk, he can't sleep," she said. "Who said a yellow code can't pass? If that's the case sick people can only wait there and die?"
        CNN reached out but was unable to make contact with Hao.
        But as video of the situation circulated in the following days, the police response struck a nerve with the Chinese public, many of whom are growing increasingly frustrated with the stringent rules that now dictate their freedom of movement amid the country's adherence to a "zero-Covid" strategy, in which eradicating infection is the top priority.
        "This wave of public opinion has already risen, and normal people would for sure support the father and daughter," one user wrote on Weibo, in a comment that received tens of thousands of likes.
        "If you don't allow the father and daughter to go out, you should help them solve the problem. If you can help them, they will not go out then. The policeman knew that they were going to get medicine. Why can't the police help them get medicines? Epidemic prevention is to serve and protect the people, not a reason to stop the people," the comment read.

        Outside the public eye

        The incident follows countless reports of people being unable to access proper or timely medical care due to heavy Covid-19 restrictions.
        Those issue