Chinese city lifts anti-covid restrictions after fire kills 10 people due to negligence in rescue

SHANGHAI – The authorities of the capital of the Xinjiang🇧🇷 Urumqiin the northwest of Chinaannounced this Saturday, the 26th, that they will start to lift the anti-covid restrictions in some parts of the city, confined since August, after the controversy on the networks about the death of 10 people in a fire.

Reports indicate that the fire started on the fifteenth floor of a residential building on the night of Thursday, the 24th, but only three hours later did firefighters finish putting out the flames and rescuing the injured, who had to be transferred to hospital centers to be treated. treated by smoke inhalation.

On social networks, which are heavily censored in the Asian country, numerous users expressed their indignation at the event. A video shared by residents shows what appears to be a fire truck spraying the building with water from a distance because it could not approach due to the confinement imposed by the authorities due to the covid-19.

In a press conference, the local authorities assured that the truck had difficulties in reaching the building because the road that gives access to it was occupied by parked vehicles, having pointed out that the block had been classified as a “low risk area” on the last day, so that “its residents were able to leave it in stages from the 20th″.

According to Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Postdatabases of risk areas of the Xinjiang National Health Commission do not show that the classification of the Jianxiang development – where the building was located – would have been changed to a “low risk area”.

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Likewise, the authorities stated that the spread of the fire was due to the fact that the fire door of the factory where the flames originated was open, preventing some residents from fleeing because they did not know the emergency exits.

Protests against restrictive measures imposed by the outbreak of the covid-19 in the city of Urumqi, Xinjiang, China.  Photo: Playback/Reuters
Protests against restrictive measures imposed by the outbreak of the covid-19 in the city of Urumqi, Xinjiang, China. Photo: Playback/Reuters

According to the specialized portal What’s on Weibowhich shows the main statistics of Weibo, a social network similar to twitter – censored in the country, the hashtag in which users discussed the press conference given by the authorities about the fire had more than 160 million interactions in just 30 minutes.

This same portal ensures that other publications referring to the fire received more than 1 billion and 500 million visits, but were not on the list of trends, which would imply that they would have been excluded by the platform’s censorship.

Some of the messages posted by users not only offer condolences for the deaths, but also show their outrage that these people have spent the last 100 days of their lives confined to their homes, in yet another example of the growing discontent of the Chinese population with the harsh restrictions imposed. within the framework of the ‘zero covid’ policy.

People protest against restrictive measures imposed because of the covid-19, in Xinjiang, western China.  Photo: Playback/Reuters
People protest against restrictive measures imposed because of the covid-19, in Xinjiang, western China. Photo: Playback/Reuters

One of the comments compared the event to the death of 27 people in a bus accident last September in the province of guizhouin southern China, as they were transferred to a quarantine center at dawn: “History repeats itself once again, and it is ordinary people who pay the price.”

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Another video circulating on social media shows an alleged protest on Friday night in the streets of Urumqi, led by a crowd of citizens demanding an end to confinement while a government official, megaphone in hand, tries to calm them down.

After the event and the wave of outrage, the government of Urumqi announced this morning that the city has managed to stop the transmission of the coronavirus at the community level and that it will “gradually restore order in the lives of citizens in low-risk areas”.

According to the official newspaper Global Times, however, the authorities claimed that there are still some areas considered to be at “high risk” of contagion, which will remain confined since “the achievements of the campaign for the prevention and control of infections by covid must be continuously consolidated”.

Despite the economic impact and the aforementioned discontent of some sectors of the Chinese population, the national authorities remain convinced of the ‘zero covid’ policy, which they say is the “most economical and scientific” and which has saved millions of lives. /EFE

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