Dozens dead after quarantine bus crash in Guizhou province

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At least 27 people died and 20 were injured after a bus carrying 47 people to a COVID-19 quarantine camp crashed in southwestern China’s Guizhou province, local authorities said.

Police in Sandu’s country in Guizhou said only that a vehicle overturned on a highway in the province and the injured were being treated in hospital.

But Guiyang City Council told a news conference on Sunday that passengers were being taken from the provincial capital of Guiyang to Libo district, some 200 kilometers to the southeast.

The bus, which was taking people to a quarantine hotel in Qiannan prefecture for medical observation and isolation, overturned around 2:40 a.m. local time on Sunday and fell into a deep ditch by the side of the road.

Authorities confirmed that 27 people had died, with 20 people being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the crash.

The crash came as authorities across the country scrambled to implement the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader’s zero-COVID policy, which led to strict restrictions on “non-essential” travel abroad, grueling and repetitive mass mandatory testing programs, lockdowns and forced mass transport to quarantine camps.

Feng Wenhua, a resident of Guiyang’s Yunyan district, said one of the victims lived in the same residential complex as him.

“This happened [to someone] in our community, on a street next to the Yunyan district government building called Chemical Road,” Feng told RFA.

There were signs that news of the crash, which initially had some 100 million views, was suppressed on social media as the story later disappeared from lists of trending search terms.

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Strong Enforcement of Zero-COVID

Monday morning, it was replaced at the top of Weibo’s “hot searches” list with an official apology from Guiyang’s municipal government.

“An apology will not bring back the dead, and this betrayal of trust is horrifying,” wrote @Nobi_Big_Bear on Weibo.

Others lashed out at overzealous officials who used forceful tactics to implement zero-COVID measures for fear of spoiling their official assessment records.

A Guiyang resident who only gave the last name Sun said the zero-COVID policy has caused numerous human tragedies.

“Things like this are all caused by human action,” Sun said. “These things would never have happened if there hadn’t been a lockdown.”

“Ordinary people can do little about it.”

Feng said zero-COVID means anyone considered “close contact” with a COVID-19 case will be forced to go to a quarantine camp, often in the middle of the night or early morning.

“A large number of people have been quarantined overnight,” Feng said. “They take all close contacts off a case as soon as it is found.”

A social media user who only gave the last name Zhao said officials are responsible for forcing people to comply with the measures.

“They have sent people to their deaths, all for their own power and political reputation,” Zhao said. “The outbreak is not that serious, yet they are dragging all these people into isolation. Are they really doing it for disease prevention or for profit?”

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‘Why don’t they leave people at home in self-isolation?’

Drag people away

An employee who answered the phone at Guizhou provincial epidemic prevention headquarters said the aftermath of the crash was being handled by the Traffic and Civil Affairs Departments.

“This policy was not formulated by us here, nor by our center. It can be formulated by a higher department,” the employee said.

“If you have any opinions, you can report them directly to your superiors. If in doubt, you can appeal to the provincial government,” they said.

At the time of writing, calls to the Guizhou Municipal Government had not received a response to RFA’s request for comment.

A resident of Guiyang who asked for anonymity said quarantine and isolation operations in the city are still in full swing.

“There are still hundreds of our neighbors who have been taken to a place in Zunyi,” the resident said. “I saw a video clip they posted: They were in a school dormitory.”

“These things will definitely happen if you drag people out like this in the middle of the night; it’s a waste of life and a waste of money,” he said, adding that he had been warned by authorities not to speak out. about the incident.

“Guiyang authorities are now telling us to shut up,” he said. “CNN wanted to interview a friend of one of the people who died, but was told that imperialist troops would not defame China. The police also contacted me and told me not to talk about it so much.”

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“The popular search results have been removed from social media platforms in China, such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu,” he said. “They hid the forwarding and commenting features.”

Political campaign

Senior journalist Zhang Feng said quarantine bus drivers must wear heavy protective clothing at night during long-distance journeys, endangering the safety of the bus journeys.

“They carry over confirmed positives from Guiyang, also known as social clearing,” Zhang told RFA. “The destination … was 300 kilometers away.”

“I don’t know why they like to do these transfers at night, which is against traffic laws, which prohibit all passenger buses from driving on highways between 2am and 5am”

“There are a lot of stretches of highway in Guiyang that are quite tough to drive,” Zhang said. “I don’t know if it was due to driver fatigue, but wearing that” [protective] clothing must have had some impact.”

Zhang said officials are eager to deliver on the zero-COVID policy, to show political loyalty to Xi Jinping and the CCP.

“It is a [political] campaign, with a top-down loyalty system, under which everyone wants to perform well,” he said. “All local governments express their political allegiance to the central government.”

“Under such a system there is no way to withdraw from” [implementing the measures].”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.