‘We’re all on this dark and terrifying bus’: China’s COVID-19 policy criticized after quarantine bus crash

Twenty-seven people died en route to a COVID-19 quarantine facility when their bus crashed in southwest China on Sunday, local authorities said, in the deadliest traffic accident in the world. country this year.
The crash happened on a highway in rural Guizhou province when the vehicle carrying 47 people “tipped onto its side”, Sandu County police said in a statement on social media.

Twenty people were treated for injuries and rescuers were dispatched to the scene in remote Qiannan prefecture, police said.

The Guizhou government confirmed later on Sunday that the vehicle had “transported quarantined people related to the outbreak” from the provincial capital of Guiyang, and that the accident happened around 2:40 a.m. local time.

“At present, the on-site rescue work has been practically completed, the treatment of the injured and the follow-up of the deceased are carried out in an orderly manner, and the cause of the accident is being investigated,” he said. said the local government in a social message. media statement.

Epidemic Prevention in Guizhou

A bus driver drives to deliver supplies in Bijie, Guizhou province, China, September 12, 2022. Credit: (Photo credit should read CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

It was unclear whether the passengers were infected with COVID-19, close contacts or lived in the same building as the virus-infected patients.

Guizhou has recorded more than 900 new infections in the past two days and Guiyang, home to six million people, was shut down earlier in September.
Photos widely shared on social media on Sunday showed a gold-colored passenger bus, its roof completely crumpled, being towed by a truck.
Another viral photo has emerged showing the bus driving at night, the driver and passengers wearing hazmat suits, which are still commonly worn in China to protect against COVID-19. AFP could not verify the photos.

“This feeling cannot simply be represented by lighting a candle and saying RIP,” read a Weibo post with more than 15,000 likes.

‘Sincere condolences’

Some people on social media took to the accident to criticize China’s relentless zero COVID policy, which has often seen entire housing complexes of thousands of people relocated to purpose-built quarantine facilities, sometimes in the hundreds. of kilometres.

“What proof do you have that you won’t be on that bus at night someday?” read a viral Weibo post with over 15,000 likes.

The top-rated answer read, “Who says we weren’t on that bus late at night, clearly we’re all on it.”

“We’re all on this dark, terrifying bus.”

Guizhou’s Communist Party leader and provincial governor “rushed” to Qiannan prefecture to lead the emergency response, the local government said, adding that officials “expressed their deep condolences to the victims”. .
“It is necessary to learn a lesson from the accident, to examine the quarantine and transport of personnel related to the epidemic and the hidden dangers in road safety… to resolutely curb the occurrence of major accidents “, reads the press release.

Guizhou officials also promised to set up a task force to investigate the cause of the accident.

During a two-month lockdown in the megacity of Shanghai this spring, some residents of housing complexes were forced from their homes and bussed to crude quarantine facilities in neighboring provinces amid at night – despite testing negative for COVID-19.
Road accidents remain fairly common in China, where spotty enforcement and lax safety standards have led to a string of fatalities over the years.
Guizhou has also experienced other transportation accidents.
In June, a railroad conductor was killed when a high-speed train derailed in the province.

And in March, a Chinese airliner crash killed all 132 people on board, marking the deadliest aviation crash in China in decades.