China quarantine bus crash sparks ‘zero COVID’ outcry

China quarantine bus crash sparks ‘zero COVID’ outcry
China quarantine bus crash sparks ‘zero COVID’ outcry

An overnight bus crash that killed 27 people in southwest China this week has sparked a storm of anger online over the harshness of the country’s strict COVID-19 policies.

The initial police report did not specify who the passengers were or where they were going, but it later emerged that they were heading to a quarantine location outside their city of Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province. .

The bus with 47 people on board crashed around 2.40am on Sunday. City officials announced several hours later that the passengers were under “medical observation”, confirming reports that they were being taken to quarantine.

Following public anger, Guiyang sacked three officials from Yunyan district, where residents had been arrested, the provincial government said on Monday. The deputy mayor of Guiyang apologized at a press conference, bowing and observing a minute’s silence.

Online, many questioned the logic behind transporting people out of Guiyang, accusing the government of moving them so the city would not report new cases.

“Will this ever end? In the top searches (on social media), there are all kinds of pandemic prevention situations every day, creating unnecessary panic and making people nervous,” one person wrote. “Is there any scientific validity to transporting people in quarantine, one car after another?”

Guiyang officials had announced the city would reach “societal zero COVID” by Monday, a day after the crash.

The phrase means that new infections are only found among people already under surveillance – such as those in a centralized quarantine facility or who are close contacts of existing patients – so that the virus no longer spreads in the community.

China has managed the pandemic through a series of measures known as “zero offset” or “zero COVID”, maintained by strict lockdowns and mass testing.

The approach saved lives before vaccines became widely available, as people refrained from gathering in public and regularly wore masks. However, while other countries have opened up and eased some of the most onerous restrictions, China has stuck to its zero COVID strategy.

While China has reduced its quarantine time for overseas arrivals and said it will start issuing student visas, the policy remains strict at home. Officials worry about the potential death toll and the impact any easing would have on the country’s strained medical system.

Zero COVID also became a political issue, and at one point many Chinese people celebrated as signifying their country’s superiority over the United States, which has recorded more than one million COVID deaths.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called China’s approach a “major strategic success” and proof of the “significant advantages” of its political system over western liberal democracies.

Yet even as other countries open up, the humanitarian costs of China’s pandemic approach have risen.

Earlier this year in Shanghai, desperate residents complained that they could not get medicine or even groceries during the city’s two-month lockdown, while some died in hospitals for lack of medical care. as the city restricted movement. Last week, residents in the western region of Xinjiang said they felt hungry after being locked down for more than 40 days.

According to FreeWeibo, a website that tracks censored posts on the popular social media platform, three of the top 10 searches on Weibo were related to the bus crash.

Many focused on images of the bus shared by social media users. A photo showed the bus after it was recovered from the crash site. Its roof was crushed and parts missing. Another photo reportedly showed the driver wearing a full white protective suit.

Online users wondered how a driver could see properly when their face was covered and why they drove so late at night. Many comments were censored, but some who expressed dissatisfaction with the current approach to the pandemic remained in place.

“I hope the price of this pain can push for change faster, but if possible, I don’t want to pay such a high price for such a change,” said the most liked comment on a report in line on the accident by the public broadcaster CCTV. “Condolences.”

One of the bus passengers said his entire building had been placed under central quarantine, according to a report by Caixin, a business newspaper. Yet his apartment building hadn’t reported any cases, according to a friend who shared their text message conversation with Caixin.

Another popular comment quoted a proverb: “These human lives are like straw.

On Tuesday, Guizhou reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 across the province. The province has been on high alert for the past few weeks after discovering a case in late August. He has locked down his capital, using the euphemism “quiet period” to describe the move, meaning people are not allowed to leave their homes.

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Associated Press press assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.

. accident dun bus quarantine china sparks outcry against zero COVID

. China quarantine bus crash sparks COVID outcry

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