The Daily Telegraph

China quake victims forced to stay in homes

Residents in Sichuan living under strict zero-covid lockdown barred from escaping apartment blocks

- By Simina Mistreanu and Jenny Pan

CHINESE citizens in the city of Chengdu were blocked from fleeing their apartments during an earthquake because of a strict Covid lockdown.

Panicked residents were met by men in white hazmat suits blocking the doors as they tried to leave their apartments after tremors shook their homes.

Videos circulatin­g on social media also showed residents gathered at the closed gates of their compounds, trying to flee in fear of buildings collapsing.

The scenes triggered widespread anger at the authoritie­s, already under pressure over rolling lockdowns and China’s draconian zero-covid policy.

Residents in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, were shaken by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck the mountainou­s Luding county in the south-western province on Monday.

The tremors caused 65 deaths and hundreds of injuries, state media reported yesterday.

Rescuers were working to rescue more than 200 people stranded in the quake zone, reopening roads and restoring phone lines and water supplies.

In Chengdu, about 140 miles east of Luding county, people were barred from leaving their apartment buildings owing to Covid restrictio­ns. The city of 21 million was locked down last Thursday after authoritie­s found more than 700 Covid infections the week before.

China is one of the last countries to maintain a zero-covid policy, a decision endorsed by President Xi Jinping.

More than 60 million people in 33 cities were still living under lockdown at the beginning of this month, according to Caixin, a news outlet.

A screenshot from an online chat group showed landlords in the city asking residents not to leave their building in order to obey the Covid lockdown.

Reporters from People’s Daily, the state-owned newspaper, were told “the earthquake was not serious enough” to lift Covid quarantine restrictio­ns.

“Staying home is the safest,” officials said, according to the paper.

The situation caused uproar on social media as the public tires of long lockdowns and reports emerge of people dying in their homes, having been denied medical care owing to the rules.

“Of course, Covid prevention is more important, and deaths caused by earthquake­s, fire disasters, and medical emergencie­s are no big deal,” wrote a user on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“Dozens of people have died in the earthquake. I wonder how many people died owing to Covid [restrictio­ns]?” said another.

On Monday, a video went viral in which a woman in Chengdu said her son had died after being refused specialist care for his heart condition.

She claimed hospital staff had insisted he complete 10 days of quarantine after allegedly coming into contact with a Covid patient.

“My son was a victim of this round of Covid prevention measures,” she said. “I am heartbroke­n, I am not willing to accept this. My son died wrongly.”

A trending topic on Weibo about her case was censored, though her video testimonia­l remained available online.

The topic had attracted critical comments and references to a forthcomin­g political meeting next month at which Mr Xi is expected to begin an unpreceden­ted third term in office.

One user wrote that the authoritie­s were using “epidemic prevention as stability maintenanc­e, just for the coronation ceremony in October”.

Mr Xi doubled down on the Covid control policies in May, saying they would “withstand the test of history”.

Studies suggest China would incur a large number of casualties if the restrictio­ns ended, as it has a relatively low vaccinatio­n rate in older people and does not have Western vaccines, which have proved more effective than Chinese jabs for newer virus variants.

 ?? ?? In Chengdu, men in hazmat suits stopped citizens fleeing flats during the earthquake
In Chengdu, men in hazmat suits stopped citizens fleeing flats during the earthquake

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