A bus transferring dozens of people to a Covid-19 quarantine facility in China’s southwestern province of Guizhou overturned in a ravine early Sunday morning, killing 27 and injuring 20, local authorities said in a news briefing.
According to Lin Gang, deputy mayor of Guiyang, the bus was taking 45 residents from the provincial capital city of Guiyang to Libo county, a remote and mountainous town located 155 miles away, for quarantine. The bus departed Guiyang at 12:10 a.m. (12:10 p.m. Saturday ET) and overturned on the expressway at 2:40 a.m..
The cause of this accident is still under investigation, Lin said.
It’s still unclear why a quarantine bus would set off after midnight to transport people to another city for quarantine. China’s transport regulation prohibits long-distance passenger buses to be operated between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Local authorities have been facing pressure to achieve the goal of “zero Covid.” The Guiyang Evening Paper said Saturday that the city had prepared 20 buses and 40 bus drivers to transport close contacts of Covid patients to other cities.
And as of Saturday, the city had transferred more than 7,000 people to other cities and nearly 3,000 more were waiting to be bused out of Guiyang.
News about the deaths sparked a huge outcry on Chinese social media, with many questioning the country’s increasingly stringent zero-Covid policy. Many posts of the accident published by state media have banned people from commenting, and searching results of Guizhou on Chinese social media appear to be filtered.
Guizhou province has ramped up Covid-19 testing and quarantine measures due to its outbreak. The province reported 712 new cases on Saturday, more than other provinces combined, according to China’s National Health Commission.