TAIPEI, Taiwan – A bus crash at night that killed 27 people in southwestern China this week has sparked an online storm of anger over the country’s harshness. strict COVID-19 policy.
The initial police report did not say who the passengers were or where they were going, but later it was reported that they had arrived at an isolation site outside Guiyang city, the capital of Guizhou province.
The bus with 47 people on board crashed around 2:40 a.m. Sunday. City officials announced hours later that the passengers were under “medical observation,” confirming reports that they had been placed in quarantine.
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Following public anger, Guiyang fired three officials in charge of Yunyan district, which had picked up residents, the provincial government said on Monday. Vice mayor Guiyang apologized during a press conference, bowed his head and watched in silence for a moment.
Online, many questioned the logic behind transporting people outside Guiyang, accusing the authorities of moving them so the city would no longer report any new cases.
“Will this ever end? On top searches (on social media), there are all kinds of pandemic prevention situations every day, creating unnecessary panic and making people restless,” one person wrote. “Is there any scientific value to transporting people to quarantine, one vehicle after another?”
Guiyang officials have announced the city will achieve “non-COVID society“On Monday, the day after the accident.
This phrase means that new infections have only been detected in people who are already under surveillance – such as those in a concentrated isolation facility or those in close contact with an existing patient – so the virus no longer spread in the community.
China has managed the pandemic through a series of so-called “zero-zero” or “no COVID” measures, maintained through strict lockdowns and mass testing.
This approach saved many lives before the vaccine became widely available, as people limited public gatherings and wore masks frequently. However, as other countries have opened up and eased some of the most severe restrictions, China has remained steadfast in its stance. zero-COVID strategy.
While China has cut the quarantine period for those arriving abroad and said it will begin issuing student visas, the policy remains strict at home. Officials are concerned about the potential death toll and the impact of any easing on the country’s strained health system.
Zero COVID has also become a political issue, and at one point hailed by many Chinese as showing their country’s superiority over the United States, which has had more than a million deaths from COVID.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has hailed China’s approach as a “major strategic success” and evidence of the “significant advantages” of the country’s political system over natural democracies. by the West.
However, even as other countries open up, the humanitarian costs of China’s pandemic approach have increased.
Earlier this year, in Shanghai, desperate residents complained of not being able to buy medicine or even groceries during the city’s two-month shutdown, while a number of people died in hospital from lack of supplies. medical care when the city restricts travel. Last week, people in the western region of Xinjiang said they had been starving for more than 40 days under the embargo.
According to FreeWeibo, a website that tracks censored posts on the popular social media platform, three of the top 10 searches on Weibo involve a bus accident.
Many people pay attention to the image of the bus shared by social media users. A photo shows the bus after it was removed from the accident site. Its roof was crushed and partially lost. Another photo is said to show the driver wearing an all-white protective suit.
Online users have questioned how a driver can see clearly with his face covered and why he is driving at night. Many of the comments were moderated, but some expressed displeasure with the current approach to the pandemic being maintained.
“I hope that the price of this pain can promote faster change, but if possible, I don’t want to pay such a high price for such change,” the most liked comment on an online report of the accident. of state broadcaster CCTV. “Condolences.”
One of the passengers on the bus said her entire building had been placed under central quarantine, according to a report by Caixin, a business news outlet. However, her apartment building hasn’t reported a single case, according to a friend who shared their text message conversation with Caixin.
Another popular comment cited a proverb, “These human lives are like straw.”
On Tuesday, Guizhou reported 41 new COVID-19 cases throughout the province. The province has been on high alert for the past few weeks after detecting one case in late August. It closed its capital city, using the euphemistic phrase “quiet time” to describe the move, which means people are not allowed to leave their homes.
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