Bus Crash Kills 27 in Late-night Transit to Remote Quarantine Facility

27 people died after a bus carrying close contacts of coronavirus patients crashed at 2:40 a.m. on Sunday outside Guiyang. Nearby contacts were being sent to a remote county of 155 miles outside the provincial capital of Guizhou, which is experiencing its largest outbreak on record. The fatal crash prompted an outpouring of criticism across the country about the unsafe practices used to enforce China’s zero-covid policy, other recent examples of which include pandemic workers preventing Chengdu residents from fleeing their buildings during an earthquake. In The New York Times, Vivian Wang and Joy Dong reported public outrage and the decision by Guiyang officials to speed up the pace of buses:

As news of the crash emerged, Chinese social media erupted with fierce debate over whether the country’s Covid policies were to blame. Users questioned whether the passengers needed to be moved at all and why the bus had been on the road so late at night, when Chinese traffic laws prohibit most long-distance passenger vehicles from driving between 2 and 5 in the morning. Some said that this tragedy. it could have happened to anyone, given the government’s fixation on eliminating cases and the powerlessness of common people to resist it.

[…] Censors removed many angry comments about the accident, as well as the entire accounts of some users who had shared their outrage or grief. In a reflection of how polarized and politicized the Covid debate has become in China, some social media users hit back at critics, saying that people who would turn a traffic accident into a political debate must be servants of the western forces.

[…] Late last week, the city’s Communist Party secretary Hu Zhongxiong he called for residents to be quarantined more quickly, requesting same-day transfers. By Saturday afternoon, more than 7,000 people had been sent out of Guiyang, with nearly 3,000 more in the process of being moved, officials said.

Hours later, 10 minutes after midnight, the bus left Guiyang. [Source]

Singapore outlet Inception reported that the rush to deport close contacts was the product of a municipal order to achieve “the social authorization” on September 19. A resident of Guiyang told Initium that in order to achieve social clearance, the authorities had started deporting entire neighborhoods to quarantine centers, despite people’s negative test results and lack of close contacts. Conditions on quarantine transport buses can be dire. A viral video was shown Passengers dressed in hazmat gear, including small children, banging on the windows of a bus and demanding to be let off to go to the bathroom. CNN’s Yong Xiong, Nectar Gan and Phillip Wang reported the government’s censorship of the outrage over the practice of the night bus and the indiscriminate quarantine:

A photo widely circulated on social media shows the bus driving at night, with the driver dressed in a full hazmat suit that left only his eyes uncovered. Other photos and videos show the bus being towed by a truck, its top crushed, and a worker in hazmat clothing spraying it with disinfectant. While CNN cannot independently verify the photos and videos, the bus’ license plate in the footage matches the license plate number reported by authorities.

[…] Chinese censors were quick to cover up the outrage. Many state media publications about the crash have closed their comments section, and search results appeared to be filtered. A related hashtag attracted more than 450 million views by Sunday evening, but only posts from official government and media accounts were shown.

[…] “What makes you think you won’t get on that night bus one day?” read a viral comment, which garnered over 250,000 likes before being censored.[Source]

A Guiyang vice mayor apologized for the incident and promised an investigation, but Bloomberg News reports that The bus accident is unlikely to prompt a change to the national zero-covid policy:

A local official has apologized for the deaths of 27 people and the injuries of 20 others when a bus being used to transport them to Covid isolation facilities overturned in the province on Sunday morning from Guizhou. While the vice mayor of the capital, Guiyang, has vowed to investigate the incident and hold those responsible accountable, public anger is mounting, and the incident is fast becoming a lightning rod for frustrations with the one-tolerance approach zero of the government virus.

[…] “I see a lot of sadness over this tragic incident, but also a widespread resignation that, despite the lives lost, not much would change in the short term as local authorities are set to control local outbreaks before the 20th Party Congress,” he said. said Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who focuses on China.

[…] Senior provincial officials have arrived to command the investigation, according to the government-affiliated Guizhou Daily. The publication ran two pieces on the importance of continuing to strengthen Covid prevention and control efforts on the front page of Monday’s paper. [Source]

The Guiyang blockade has been plagued by problems since its inception. At the beginning of September, some the inhabitants of the city complained of hunger and alleged that aid depended on the policy itself, with groceries only given to “compliers”.

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