Covid-19 restrictions in China city lifted after fire deaths

BEIJING, 26 Nov 2022:

Authorities in the capital of the northwestern Xinjiang province in China today announced the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in several parts of the city – following the death of 10 people in a fire.

The city of Urumqi has been under confinement since August. The deaths in the fire caused an uproar on social media over allegedly inadequate action during the incident due to Covid-19 norms.

The fire broke out on the 15th floor of a residential building on Thursday night.

It took the fire brigade another three hours to finish extinguishing the flames and rescue those wounded, who were taken to hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation.

A video claimed to be of the fire circulated on social media, where otherwise the incident was heavily censored.

The video showed a fire truck spraying water from a distance because the locality was under lockdown, which led to indignation among internet users.

The local authorities clarified at a press conference that the truck had difficulty getting to the building because vehicles were parked on the road leading to it.

Moreover, it said the block in question had been classified as a “low risk zone” so its residents had been able to leave it in a staggered manner.

The authorities further claimed that several residents were unable to escape as they were not familiar with the emergency exits.

Nevertheless, the incident and the response of the authorities caused much indignation on social media, even though it was downplayed and censored by the platforms.

Some of the messages posted by users not only offer sympathy for the deaths but also express outrage over the long period of confinement, marking yet another case of the growing discontent among the people regarding China’s strict “Zero Covid” policy.

Another video circulated on social media showing an alleged protest last night in the streets of Urumqi, where a crowd gathered demanding an end to the confinement while a government official, megaphone in hand, tried to pacify them.

The government at Urumqi announced early today that they had succeeded in stopping the community transmission of the virus in the city, and normal life would resume in a phased manner in low risk areas, according to state-owned Global Times newspaper.